Imagine that title shouted by Johnny Olson from the early Price is Right show!
It’s big news in our community. Secondary public school students will attend a brand new facility this year.
It’s been an interesting story to follow as it brings together two schools – Western Secondary School and General Amherst High School – into the new facility. There was a great deal given up by the town for the school district’s preferred location – the community swimming pool, four softball diamonds, a skateboard park and parking to take advantage of it at all.
Personally, I don’t understand why it wasn’t built on the huge plot of land that Western Secondary School was built on. That would put it just down the road from the local Catholic high school. But, they didn’t ask me. There were a number of controversies, as expected, even with the choice of school name.
I had a chance once to be involved in the construction of a new school. My superintendent was in charge of the Lakeshore Discovery School project and I loved his philosophy that you only get to build a school in a community about every 100 years so he wasn’t going to waste it! I was brought in to help with technology decisions but there was one thing that was incorporated that really impressed me. We’ve all heard about time capsules being dug up from buildings; in this case, visual time capsules were built into the design so that all students could enjoy things of the time rather than waiting for 100 years.
My first school was a relatively new school when I started and I recall so many things that went into the design – air conditioning!, a video network in each classroom so that the librarian could play videos from the library and all we had to do was plug a television into the drop in the classroom, carpeted flooring which really helped the feet (it was shag carpeting but remember this was a long time ago), and a room devoted to a computer (although the IBM 1130 never showed up).
It’s important to build the best into a new building. All that it takes is a walk-through of a 100-year-old building to really get a sense of how antiquated a facility can be. You can also see how attempts to stay modern were attempted but it’s still not the same. Of course, you can’t build new schools all the time so it’s interesting to see what is bragged about as being “state of the art” at the big press moments.
So, students will take to the new school this week and it will be interesting to see reactions on social media. That’s never been an option in years gone by. We’ll get reactions firsthand. I had been hoping that an open house for the community would have been available but either it isn’t or I wasn’t invited. It appears that construction will be working its way down to the last possible moment. At the last drive-by, the landscaping looks well on its way. New trees have been planted and the fields are largely ungrassed but that will come with time. The article above shows some nice pictures inside and the interview with Superintendent Awender was really interesting.
It’s hard for some to get excited about a new school but I hope that it comes. Western could have continued as it is but General Amherst really was wanting for updating. The only sad thing that will happen here as it did with Lakeshore Discovery is capacity. Ministry rules say that you build for the bodies that you actually can count and so North Star, according to the article, will open at capacity. I know from dog walking that there are all kinds of housing projects on the go in our community. If more kids move it, they’ll want to go to school somewhere. They have two choices now; North Star or St. Thomas of Villanova. A lot of bodies will translate into portable classrooms which really destroys the feeling of going to a brand new facility.
How about you? What are your thoughts about new schools?