Today is the Day

January 9, 2009

At 7:15 this morning, we put our boys on the school bus for the first time and sent them off to their brand-new school, just like the parents of 558 other kids did.  This school has been talked about since before Evan started Primary.  The Willow Street Community petitioned against it, as did the communities of the other three schools that are involved in the amalgamation, saying that we didn’t need a new big school; neighbourhood schools are better for kids at this age.  However, the politicians know best and the “sod was turned” on the current site two years ago. (The ground was still frozen, so the ceremony took place inside at the school-board offices.)

New school under construction in the Fall

New school under construction in the Fall

The kids of all four school have been on break since December 17th when their schools closed for the last time, and everything was moved to the new one.  The teachers have been been very busy during their Christmas break, moving and making their classrooms functional.  The school was opened to students & families on Monday & Tuesday nights for tours.  We had planned to all go together on Monday night since skating was on Tuesday, but just as we were ready to go out the door, Sarah threw up everywhere.  Long story short, D’Arcy & Alex went Monday night and Evan, Ginna & I went on Tuesday night.  I had sent the camera with D’Arcy so he could get some photos to show me and he came back with one (1)!!

Alex's new Grade 2 Classroom

Alex's new Grade 2 Classroom

To be honest, I was disappointed with the new school, but perhaps my expectations were too high.  For one thing, it isn’t finished.  The library is immediately on the left as you enter the school, but the shelves aren’t up and there are just boxes of books everywhere.  It does have two floors of windows, but the area doesn’t seem to be much larger than the one at Willow St.  (Granted, I think we had one of the best libraries of the four schools.)  The varnish on the gym floors was all bubbly from being rushed and there were still boxes of flooring & power tools lying around.  The state-of-the-art music room is nice, because one wall is two stories of windows, overlooking the back field.  However, there is no way more than one or two classes can be in there at a time.  Since there are four classes of each grade, how do they get together to practice together for a concert?  The cafeteria was also somewhat of a disappointment because of it’s size.  The tables are the style of picnic tables with the benches attached.  We have been told that the kids will eat in two shifts – P-2 first and then 3-5, 300 kids at a time.  Their recesses will be staggered as well.  This means, I realized Tuesday night, that once they get off the bus, Evan & Alex will not see each other all day.  Alex’s classroom is on the main floor and Evan’s is upstairs.  That makes me sad.  The stairs are another thing I take issue with – the “railings” are the style of a chain link fence.  It reminded me of being in jail.

It’s hard to explain, but instead of entering their classrooms from the hall, you enter from the side, so if someone is walking down the hall, it is not easy to see inside the classroom.  The hallways are curved so you cannot see from one end to the other.  One nice touch is that one wall of each classroom is painted a color.  Grade 2 is purple and Grade 4 is orange.  Evan informed me it is because “the research shows that children learn better when surrounded by color”!  Another disappointment is that there are only three computers in each classroom, the same number they already had.  This “technology rich state-of-the-art” school does not even have a computer lab.  I feel this is shortsighted since the building has been designed to have a life of at least 50 years. 

Each classroom does have a ceiling mounted LCD projector, and when D’Arcy & Alex were touring D’Arcy told him that there was actually a webcam inside and that we could log onto a website from home and watch them in their classrooms to see if they were behaving!!  I hope he doesn’t spend his day waving at the LCD projector…

Although I am sounding negative about the new school, I *am* resigned to the fact that it is a reality.  The kids think it is wonderful and at the moment, do not see any of its flaws.  I try to keep my negativity to my conversations with other grownups and remain upbeat and optimistic around them. 

My MAIN beef is that in my opinion, they’ve rushed this process and moved the kids in January, the worst time of the year weather-wise, when they could have taken their time, done a good job, opened the school when the construction crews were not still in the school and avoided disrupting the kids’ routine.  These are four schools who have not used the bus system and have not stayed for lunch before.  The School Board and the Administration don’t seem to realize how big an impact this is having on the kids’ routines!  Our boys, for example, used to go to bed at 7:30 with lights out at 8:00.  On that routine, I was waking Evan at eight to have breakfast and get dressed to run out the door at 8:30 so he’d have time to play with his friends on the playground before the day started.  Now the bus picks them up (in the dark!) at the bus stop at 7:15, so they are leaving the house no later than 7:10.  There were 20 kids at their bus stop this morning which is (luckily) right outside Auntie Kay & Uncle Hug’s front door, but they have to wait either on the sidewalk or their front lawn!!

The kids don’t know what to expect so have gone back & forth between being excited and nervous.  Both boys were complaining about butterflies in their stomachs last night and Alex ended up crying himself to sleep because he just didn’t know what to do with himself.  School was supposed to start yesterday, but due to freezing rain was cancelled.  Both boys were disappointed, and Alex did end up going back to sleep in the morning until nine.  (D’Arcy, of course, was thrilled with a snow day!)  They both had plans to wear their “Property of Willow Street School” shirts & sweatshirts and because he was already dressed when he got the news of the school’s cancellation, his main concern was how to keep his clothes clean so he could wear them again today!  (Um, take them off and wear something else?!)

My parents took the girls to their house for a sleepover last night (and the night before, for that matter) so that both D’Arcy & I could walk the boys to the bus stop this morning.  The boys were up and in our room by 6:00 this morning, anxious to know whether or not there would be school.  They had their breakfast (toast for Alex and oatmeal for Evan) and at 6:50, Alex asked if they should be getting ready yet.  Their excitement was palpable and there was a never-ending barage of questions about what we thought it would be like.  I stalled them for a few minutes by taking the obligatory “first day” photos:

The boys, excited for their first day at the new school

The boys, excited for their first day at the new school

We all got ready and headed out the door by 7:10. It’s still quite dark at that time:

10 a.m.

Walking to the bus stop at 7:10 a.m.

The kids were excited and it wasn’t long before the bus arrived. Alex got on first and sat with his cousin Aidan.

Alex boarding the bus

Alex boarding the bus

Evan was almost the last one in his group to board. I think he was hanging back because one of his best friends is also on his bus, but hadn’t shown up yet. Just as Evan found his seat, his friend’s mom came running down the sidewalk, frantically waving and saying that there were two more on their way! I couldn’t tell whether they got to sit together or not.

Evan boarding the bus

Evan boarding the bus

I will miss them at lunch, but am relieved that they are in the safe & caring hands of their own teachers (classes from each school are moving up in-tact with their own teachers at least!) and that they are mostly oblivious to our (my) angst. We had a good talk last night before bed about how change is scary for everyone, but can open up all kinds of new opportunities and possibilities. I can’t wait to see them at 2:20 when they get home off the bus and hear about how their day went. And really, how a mother NOT put aside her own fears when she sees the excitement on this little face?!



One Response to “Today is the Day”

  1. […] not a fan of the boys’ new school.  I worried and fretted about it enough here, here,   here and here while making the transition.   Since the move was made, I’ve been very careful to […]

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