School Girl

May 18, 2010

Yesterday, Sarah got to go to the school for Primary orientation.  How exciting!

She had received her invitation in the mail last week and had been carefully guarding it from her siblings.  She put on her prettiest princess dress for the occasion, even though I suggested that she might be over-dressed for her fire-hall tour with the preschool, immediately following! How could I argue with the logic that it was a very special day, so she needed to wear her special dress?!

We got to the school with all the other children – there are currently 70 children registered in the school for English Primary, and 18 in the French Immersion class.  She was put into group “1” of four with one of her best friends, Katerina, and with Kaylee and Ella, whom she knew from dance class.

At the first station, they listened to one of the Primary teachers read them a story and answer questions, the second was to play with play-dough (building fine motor skills), the third was following directions (print their name at the “top” of the paper, draw their favourite foods, then cut and glue some other pictures from the flyers), and the fourth station was identifying lower case letters with magnets.

Sarah & Katerina

At each station, they met a different teacher and were given a bag of goodies at the end.  The bag contained three books (one in French), construction paper, scissors, glue, crayons, a pencil, a container of play-dough and some magnetized upper & lower case letters & numbers.  Sarah was so excited by this, she has carried it everywhere and even slept with the bag last night!

We met some of the other children who will be in her class and know two-thirds of them already.  We were interested to learn that the class will be made up of an even split of boys and girls!  She will get a call in another couple of weeks with a time that she can go to school and spend the morning with the primaries while they are in class.

The hardest part now will be waiting for September for school to start!

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New School Rant

March 28, 2009

So, it’s no big secret that I’m 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 be positive while talking about the school in front of the kids because like it or not, that’s where they spend the majority of their time.  I wanted them to form their own judgements and not influence the way they feel about their school.  

Alex seems mostly oblivious.  He’s  just the happy-go-lucky kid who is going with the flow these days.  He’s also, in Grade 2; still with the “little” kids.  Evan, on the other hand has gone from LOVING school, to telling my mother when she picked him up from band on Wednesday, “I can’t wait to be in Grade 6 so I don’t have to go to this school anymore.”  

It breaks my heart.

I hate the fact that up until the day before March Break, Alex had no idea where Evan’s classroom was.  I hate the fact they eat their lunch while wearing their snowsuits because there’s not enough time to eat and then get dressed.  I hate that they now know what a “sucker-punch” , “giving the finger” & a “retard” are.  I hate the fact the kids on the bus sing a song that has lines which say something to the effect of “stick a rifle up his nose…  pull the trigger, there he blows…”  I wish we could have kept them cocooned in the safety of their neighbourhood community just a little bit longer.

We’re lucky that our kids come home and tell us about this stuff at the supper table and we can tell them how wrong all these actions are and that the people who do and say and act this way probably don’t have the home life they do.  I think Evan is scared to death that he’s going to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and get involved in one of the altercations some of his friends have been caught in.  We now discuss bullying quite regularly and what to do if you or your friends are the ones being bullied.

It hasn’t been an easy adjustment.  

582 kids, P-5.  

I’ve kept quiet about it all (except to my inner circle) until this weekend.  Thursday, the kids came home and told me that the Premier would be coming to school for the “Grand Opening” on Monday.  I quizzed them about it and they told me the opening ceremonies for the school are being held Monday at 12:30 and that the Premier is going to be there.

“Is there a notice in your agenda?” I asked.

“No, but our teachers told us.”

Today, there was an article in the town newspaper about the opening ceremonies on Monday, listing the time, the fact that the Premier will be there, there’s going to be a ribbon cutting ceremony and the choir (which Alex is a member of) is singing.  However, there was NO NOTICE AT ALL to parents from the school about it.  I guess once you fit 582 students into the gym, there isn’t much room left over for parents…  

I’m going anyway – we will have children enrolled there for the next ten years.  I’m a parent, a volunteer, and my tax dollars helped pay for this “community”  school. (I can’t believe I just said that!)  Most of all, the boys would like to have me there, so I’ll put my game face on, and will do my best to be enthusiastic and make it the special celebration it should be.

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?!

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Goodbye Willow Street School

December 19, 2008

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I feel like I’m in mourning.  The boys’ elementary school of 120 students closed its doors for the last time Wednesday after 93 years.  The children will be going to a brand new elementary school after Christmas with a population of 560 kids from Primary – Grade 5.  They will now take the bus instead of walking and I will be packing lunches instead of waiting for them to burst through the door at noon.  A mother can do a lot of trouble-shooting in that half hour they are home at lunch!  (And I always throw their wet mittens, hats & socks in the dryer.)  I know that so many children stay for lunch and take a bus, so I feel a bit guilty for whining.  However, I grew up here in town (at one of the other schools that closed Wednesday) and walked to elementary school, junior high & high school.  Busses are foreign & frightening to me.

At Willow Street School, I was able to do things like call and ask the principal to look for Evan’s sneakers when they went missing.  I don’t think that will happen at the new school!!  Sarah was born when Evan was in primary and Olivia was born when Alex was in Primary & Evan was in Grade 2, and they announced both births over the PA when they found out.  Sarah goes along with me whenever I go volunteer and when I forgot Evan’s milk money, one of the EA’s called me because she knew he always got milk.  She ended up paying for him and I sent in the money in the afternoon.  When Alex started school they made so many accommodations for him because of his eye-sight, without us even having to ask!  Right down to getting him special paper with black lines and putting rough yellow tape on the edges of all the steps in the school (and there are a lot!) so he would be safer.   It is such a close-knit community and is incredibly sad, as a parent, to leave it behind.  The kids can’t wait.

We had the “official” closing a couple of weeks ago, on November 28th.  I’m guessing we had over 500 people show up – mostly former students & teachers, but we did have a gentleman who told us that his mother went to WSS in 1923!  We also had a gentleman from the class of 1928 come to see the school one last time.  It was a wonderful evening, as the photos convey:

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Some current and former staff

Some current and former staff

We had the school Christmas Concert on Monday which had a great turnout.  It was actually the best elementary school concert I’ve been to!  The music teacher had been brought out of retirement for this term, knowing that the school would be closing.  He was my music teacher in Junior High and I think he missed his calling  – he should have been an elementary teacher because the kids adored him!  He also is the conductor of the town band, so they performed and were the accompanists for part of the concert!  He put together an “alumni choir”, and I put that in quotation marks because I was talked into joining, although I was not a WSS alumni.  (It’s nice to feel needed, nonetheless!)  They justified it because I was a parent & PTG, and the former teacher who conducted the choir is actually the woman we bought our house from and I was in her choir when I was three!

Grade 2 - Alex's class

Grade 2 - Alex's class

Grade 4 seems somewhat confused

Grade 4 seems somewhat confused

...but come together for a delightful performance!

...but come together for a delightful performance!

I was surprised when five of us (moms) were called up on stage to receive bouquets in appreciation for the work we do around the school as volunteers. 

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On Wednesday, the girls, Ginna & I went along with the school to a Christmas Church Service where Alex read.  It was a fitting way to spend the morning of the last day, I think.  There were no big celebrations in the afternoon because the teachers were too busy packing.  The already sombre atmosphere was amplified at lunchtime when a boy in Grade One slipped in the slippery snowstorm and was hit by one of the staff with her car in the parking lot. He was taken away by ambulance and I have heard he has a broken leg, and will be in a cast for 6-8 weeks.

Parents had been invited to the school in the afternoon to be there for final bell, so Ginna, the girls & I walked over in the snow.  The teachers all got in a group outside before the kids were dismissed, and when the bell rang, they waved goodbye at the bottom of the steps, saying “Merry Christmas!” as the kids streamed out of the school.  There were tears and smiles & laughter and lots of hugs.

Alex & Maddie leaving

Alex & Maddie leaving

Evan & Christian leaving together

Evan & Christian leaving together

Teacher group hug

Teacher group hug

Natalie & Amy

Natalie & Amy

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I have a print of the school that we “won” at the silent auction at the Fun Fair in the Spring.  I think it is quite fitting that the weather on the last day is so similar to the print.  We (PTG) hosted a luncheon for the teachers and staff here yesterday and we presented the principal and the administrative assistant who are both moving on, with the same print.  We gave each of the teachers new books for their new classrooms with the profits of our book fair and had bookplates made up for those books with a folk-art painting of the school and the words, “This book was a gift from Willow Street School PTG”.  When we find out how much money we have leftover once we amalgamate with the other schools’ PTGs, we are planning to donate a piece of playground equipment to the new school.

Ah, change.  I put the following quote by Pauline R. Kezer on the place card for the Teachers’ Luncheon:  “Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches,letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.”  Change is never easy, and I know that the new school will end up being wonderful in its own way.  However, when we drove by WSS this morning and the moving vans were pulled up to the front door, Alex said from the back seat, “You know, it kind of hurts my heart to look at that”. 

Me too!

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Meeting a Star!

November 28, 2008

Yesterday was D’Arcy’s 45th Birthday.  We managed to fit in a small celebration at suppertime.  I had spent the day at the school; it was the final Library Day for the kids, so we let every child in the school take home ten books to keep.  They were SO excited!!  One child even told us that it was the “best day of (his) whole life”!   After school, we decorated for the School Closing Ceremony tonight.  The school looks beautiful!  I’ll go back this afternoon to finish up all the last minute details. 

We had my parents here for Ruben’s at D’Arcy’s request and I made him a pumpkin gingerbread trifle for a cake and it was a hit!!

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D’Arcy left the table to head to Cubs and the boys went with my parents to a Jaydee Bixby concert.  He was the Canadian Idol runner-up in 2007.   They had second row seats and were so excited when they arrived home.  They were actually able to meet him and talk to him and the whole band signed their tickets.  Jaydee even took the time to have his photo taken with them.  Now that’s a real star in my books!

Evan, Alex & Jaydee Bixby

Evan, Alex & Jaydee Bixby

Student of the Month

September 29, 2008

There is a peace assembly at the end of each month at the boys’ school.  Everyone files into the gym and sings “Don’t Laugh at Me” together.  It’s the theme song of the Operation Respect  anti-bullying program.  It’s a wonderful program and hearing the kids sing it brings me to tears every time!  One class then presents a short skit, reading, or song, teaching about what it means to live in a peaceful school.  Two students from each class are chosen as “Student of the Month” and receive a certificate in front of their peers in recognition of a job well done.  This month, Evan received a Student of the Month Award for “his keen participation in class and for helping other students”.  I hope he is always keen and helps other people and I hope that none of them ever know what it’s like to be bullied!