By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – New clothes, new binders and new schools were the order of the day for many Morinville students Tuesday morning. Principals report active and productive opening days at Notre Dame Elementary School, Georges H. Primeau Middle School and Morinville Public Elementary School.
The transfer of the Georges P. Vanier School to Sturgeon School Division this summer coincided with the addition of modular units to Notre Dame and the plan to shift Grade 5 students to Primeau to learn alongside the school’s Grades 6-8 students.
The hallways of Georges H. Primeau were full of students old and new finding their lockers, classrooms and teachers Tuesday morning. Principal Vic Pedersen is excited about the prospect of a new dynamic at his school this year.
“The energy through this building is amazing,” he said. “It’s electrical. They are so excited, very clearly.”
Pedersen said he had visited most of the classrooms by noon and found the students in all grades to be doing well.
Although enrolment numbers are not official until the end of September, Pedersen said Primeau now has nearly 500 students at the school, numbers he has seen before.
“We’re full,” he said, adding registrations were still coming in Tuesday morning. “They’re been coming in steady.”We’re 477 [or] 478, which reminds me when I first started out here [at Primeau] when it was a Grade 7 to 12. We had over 500.”
Pedersen said he does not feel the school is overcrowded in its present enrolment. Rather the school is using all of its spaces. Teacher prep time, which last year was often done in the classroom, will now largely be done in the staff room due to classrooms being completely utilized throughout the day.
The middle school principal feels the addition of Grade 5 to the school is going to be a positive one. “I’m excited about it,” he said. “I think it’s going to bring a new level of energy and enthusiasm to the building. To be honest, I think it will bring more youth to the program. I don’t think it will go the other way.”
Pedersen said with 50 per cent of the student population (Grades 5 and 6) being new to the school, he believes the Grade 8 students will be kept a little younger in their outlook as opposed to the Grade 5s trying to act like older students. “I think that’s positive,” he said.
Notre Dame reuniting friends
The first day of school at Notre Dame Catholic Elementary School was a positive one for students and staff.
Principal Marlene Pelletier said parents were flexible in dealing with construction both on the school grounds and in the neighbourhood. “They parked at the hall and the church and walked their kids because we weren’t sure about our parking lot,” she said. “But everything is good to go.”
Pelletier said the morning began with an assembly in the gymnasium where students met their new teachers, an opportunity for the former Vanier students to become acquainted with their new surroundings.
“It went well,” she said of the first morning, adding busses were more of less on schedule. “On the whole I think the first day went very well because of our parents who have been very flexible with us as we make some changes and have had to make changes.”
Pelletier said enrolment at the school on opening day was in excess of 500 students. Additionally, the RC Parish Hall is now serving as the Georges P. Vanier Preschool. Pelletier was not certain of the numbers in the preschool program. Between the Notre Dame and Vanier Preschool sites, Pelletier said there is approximately 50 on staff.
She is confident the mix of existing Notre Dame students with former Vanier students at her school will be a good one.
“I think for the kids, because the kids see each other in the community in sports events or dancing, those sorts of things; I think it’s actually exciting for them because now they have someone that they might have known from Vanier,” she said. “When we created our class lists, we did a real good mix of the students so that everybody felt like they were part of this community.”
Despite an excess of 500 students in the school’s Kindergarten to Grade 4 program, Pelletier is not concerned about overcrowding. “We actually have a space that we’ve kind of prepared for that purpose if we had to have another classroom,” she said. “We’ve done everything in scheduling to make sure everybody has a spot in the computer lab or the gym or in the library. We’ve made sure to accommodate in those areas where we needed to.”
Pelletier said she is excited by the opportunity for growth and is anticipating a great year ahead at her school.
Morinville Public pleased with enrolment
The first morning of school at Morinville Public Elementary School was an exciting one for students as well as their parents.
“It was really good this morning,” said Principal Wayne Rufiange. “A lot of excited and nervous parents, just like any other school would have. As the kids were coming through the door, there was some nervousness on their part. You get that whole gamut of emotions. I thought it was a great morning.”
For the first time since the fledgling school began operation, Rufiange’s students had an entire school at their disposal, one that will allow them some room for growth. The principal said his initial numbers are between 190 and 200 Kindergarten to Grade 5 students and another 50 to 60 students in the Head Start and Preschool Enrichment program.
Rufiange said at all grades there is an effort to create a good learning environment. “We’re trying to create a little different learning environment than what you’d see in a traditional classroom,” Rufiange said. “We really try and, especially in the younger grades, make it feel like home. And that’s part of that Regio [Emelia] as well, just to keep it a nice, natural place. Not necessarily all rows of desks.” The principal said even desks for Grade 5 students are more conducive to working in groups.
Rufiange said the school has eleven teachers on board but he anticipates the addition of another teacher to keep class sizes in the division standard of 18 or 19 students for Grades 1 to 3 classrooms. “That’s not always achievable but that is certainly what we are looking for,” Rufiange said. “When you get to [Grades] 4, 5 and 6, you’re looking at 23 or 24. We’re looking really hard at how we can adjust those classrooms and configurations to keep that 18, 19 students in the primary grades.”
The school has 70 kindergarten students, including 13 in French Immersion Kindergarten.
Enrolment numbers for both divisions will be made final with the province later this month.
Above: Georges H. Primeau students make their way down the hall on the first day of classes.