Marie Sharpe elementary and the new GROW/Skyline alternate education centre in the annex next door are a beehive of frenzied activity this week as teachers, aides and district maintenance crews work down to the wire to get the buildings ready for the new school year.
Tuesday, there were boxes and books piled high, and shelving, filing cabinets, tables, chairs and other supplies randomly stacked and assembled in the middle of most rooms, and busy people everywhere.
In the new GROW/Skyline centre district painter Gary Thomson is giving an entrance hall a final coat of creamy yellow paint.
Down the hall, Lorne Haines, the district’s carpentry lead hand, is putting up some shelves.
Wandering between them checking on progress are Alex Telford, the new district manager of facilities and transportation, and assistant facilities manager Richard des Ormeaux.
Over in another part of GROW/Skyline some teachers and aides are unpacking boxes and organizing teaching supplies.
“It’s all coming together very well,” says GROW/Skyline principal Mike Franklin, as he contemplates where to put some boxes of out-dated encyclopedias.
The whole scene looked fairly chaotic, but superintendent of schools Diane Wright and district secretary-treasurer Bonnie Roller, who gave me a tour of the GROW/Skyline and Marie Sharpe renovations, assured me everything would be back in place by the time school starts next week.
“There has been a great effort by our crews,” Wright says. “They haven’t just done the job, they have done an incredible job to make it all work with the time lines they have had …. It’s been really exciting — our crew has done a marvelous job.”
In efforts to facilitate a co-ordinated flow of traffic, Wright says they have been able to set up the new GROW/Skyline centre with separate entrances and study areas for the Junior Skyline (grades 8-10), Senior Skyline (grades 11 and 12), and GROW’s adult learners, ages 19 and over.
Saibra Larden, the First Nations liaison at GROW/Skyline, picked up a little extra cash this summer as a labourer with the maintenance crew.
“It’s fabulous, I’m very excited about the new space. It’s a big space and it’s new,” says Larden, who was moving things into the new GROW/Skyline activity room that is outfitted with sink, stoves, and several fridges.
She says the space will serve as an instruction room, cafeteria and foods teaching room, as well as an activity room.
The room will also be used by the Boys and Girls Club’s after school program for younger students, Wright says. She notes the activity room has direct access to the school playground, and isn’t far from the school gymnasium which are also used by the Boys and Girls Club and City’s after school Rec and Roll program.
For the first time ever, Wright says GROW/Skyline will have its own staff room.
There is also a little room created in the building where the distance education teachers and students can meet.
The distance education students, who are home-schooled or schooled in small groups in rural communities, come together in Williams Lake periodically for activities at the library, Scout Island and also have a classroom at Williams Lake secondary.
In various rooms there is still evidence that little people attended school here. In efforts to save on costs, various rooms will keep the sinks that are on low shelving units originally designed for little children. The very small toilets for the youngest children have been replaced but some mid-sized ones will also stay, Wright says.
Jan Fichtner, the district vice-principal for healthy schools and healthy students, was so excited to be in her new space that she already had it decorated and ready to go.
At the former GROW/Skyline centre, Fichtner says they were constrained on what they could do with the building because it was rental space so it has been nice to design the new centre on school property to meet the program’s actual needs.
Fichtner’s office is in a bright sunny corner room with a view of the inner courtyard.
“My focus is to meet with parents and students who are having difficulty finding success in the system, and connect them with the specialized programs that are available within the school district and in the community,” Fichtner says.
She works with students from the elementary to the secondary level to help them to more forward and feel successful again.
Over at Marie Sharpe elementary classrooms are also in disarray as last minute reorganization takes place to accommodate the primary students moving into the main building from the annex and the new full-day kindergarten program, but more on that story on Tuesday.