Children with physical disabilities will soon have a new space to call their own in NDG.

The ceremonial groundbreaking for the Mackay Centre's new building took place on Wednesday.

"It's a huge step. I can just imagine the possibilities," said Ann Gagnon, whose two sons attend the Mackay school.

The English Montreal School Board had discussed the possibility of updating and renovating the existing school on Decarie Blvd., but determined the 50-year-old building was too small to meet the needs of 200 students.

Instead in 2015 the board approved $23 million in spending to create a new centre on Terrebonne St. near Madison Ave. in what is currently a large grassy field frequently used by students at nearby Marc Favreau school.

The new building will also be used by students from the Philip E. Layton school for the blind, whose students moved into the existing Mackay Centre in 2014.

Gagnon said the school does much more than teach children with disabilities.

"First and foremost it gives them dignity. It's a place for them. They do physio, they do socializing, and they're in a place where people have unconditional love and such passion for them," she said.

Principal Patrizia Ciccarelli is looking forward to the new facility.

"I'm just so excited! I'm picturing my students walking the halls of the state-of-the-art facility which they so deserve," said Ciccarelli.

The new building will include modern rooms for nursing, sensory stimulation, and a larger pool.

Joanne Charron said it will help students like her son Niko be their best.

"He's able to communicate through a device like Stephen Hawking. He participated in Defi Sportif. Even though he's quadriplegic he swims and takes part in competitions. It's just the happiest place on Earth for us," said Charron.

The chair of the EMSB is glad that her board is expanding, rather than shrinking.

"For me this is historic because it is true that we don't usually build in the English sector, but it's for generations to come for our special needs students," said Angela Mancini.

Construction is set to begin in the next two months, with the building scheduled to be ready for the 2018-19 school year.


This article has been updated.