School thri­ving des­pite over­crow­ding

PETES stu­dents, staff ma­king best of si­tua­tion

L'Etoile - - IN OTHER WORDS -

Wal­king in­to Pierre El­liott Tru­deau Ele­men­ta­ry School in Vau­dreuil-Do­rion Mon­day morning was like wal­king in­to any other ele­men­ta­ry school. The bright­ly lit halls were filled with chil­dren, art work and some evi­dence of snow pants and boots.... What’s not as ob­vious, ho­we­ver, was that PETES is a school burs­ting at the seams.

Prin­ci­pal Col­leen Gal­ley says it’s bu­si­ness as usual for the 450 chil­dren at­ten­ding a school de­si­gned for about 100 fe­wer stu­dents.

“We’re ma­king le­mo­nade from le­mons,” she no­ted.

Gal­ley, who as­su­med PETES top ad­mi­nis­tra­tive job at the be­gin­ning of the school year, says staff, stu­dents and pa­rents have been “in­cre­di­bly sup­por­tive” when co­ming up with so­lu­tions for much nee­ded space.

For example, when a speech the­ra­pist, a psy­cho­lo­gist and a hea­ring spe­cia­list who come in­to the school on dif­ferent days to work with spe­ci­fic stu­dents did not have a place to call their own, Gal­ley’s tea­chers sug­ges­ted conver­ting a large cloak-room used by the Home and School Or­ga­ni­za­tion in­to a co­zy but func­tio­nal of­fice.

The coo­pe­ra­tive spi­rit conti­nued when the Home and School pre­sident not on­ly agreed to give up the space, but came in and clea­ned it out.

“The speech the­ra­pist was thril­led with the room,” Gal­ley said. “She had to cart all of her tools from place to place before we found this so­lu­tion.”

Other crea­tive, space sa­ving mea­sures in­clu­ded conver­ting boys’ and girls’ gym lo­cker rooms in­to re­source rooms, and ano­ther small sto­rage space hou­sing about 100 spare chairs in­to a place where a spe­cial needs tea­cher can do his job unin­ter­rup­ted.

The room now boasts a table and chairs, sup­plies nee­ded by the tea­cher and an exer­cise bi­cycle used when chil­dren with hy­per­ac­ti­vi­ty di­sor­der must ex­pend ex­tra ener­gy.

The best part, says Gal­ley, the 100 ex­tra chairs and ad­di­tio­nal unu­sed sup­plies that were ga­the­ring dust went to th­ree less af­fluent schools.

“There are some schools with a lot less (than we have,) so it’s great they could use the stuff that was just ex­tra for us.”

Over­crow­ding on­going is­sue

Gal­ley can­did­ly ad­mits eve­ry inch of avai­lable space at PETES has now been maxi­mi­zed (ex­cept for her of­fice, which she’d be willing to sub­di­vide,) but she says the pro­blem is not unique to the Vau­dreuilDo­rion school.

“Al­most eve­ry other school in the re­gion is over­crow­ded,” she said. “The on­ly school that has some ex­tra space isWest­wood Jr. (in Saint-La­zare).”

To that end, 120 of next year’s grades 5 and 6 stu­dents will at­tend West­wood Jr. ins­tead of PETES.

Pa­rents of the sa­tel­lite stu­dents at­ten­ded a Feb. 3 mee­ting in or­der to learn de­tails and ex­press concerns, while they and their kids al­so tou­red West­wood Jr. yes­ter­day eve­ning. Gal­ley says that while the kids will still be PETES stu­dents, they’ll go each day to the Saint-La­zare ju­nior high school, re­tur­ning to PETES from time to time for spe­cial events.

The stu­dents will fol­low PETES late start sche­dule mea­ning their day will be­gin and end an hour la­ter thanWest­wood’s.

The younger stu­dents will have their own en­trance in­to the school and will oc­cu­py five class­rooms in a se­pa­rate wing.

They’ll al­so eat lunch at a time dif­ferent than the high school kids.

“Some pa­rents were concer­ned that their kids would be “ex­po­sed” to high school stu­dents,” Gal­ley said, ad­ding, “They won’t come in contact ve­ry of­ten at all with the West­wood kids, but we think there’s al­so a ter­ri­fic op­por­tu­ni­ty to do some brid­ging ac­ti­vi­ties with younger and ol­der stu­dents.”

No re­lief from crow­ding

Des­pite sen­ding the 120 stu­dents to West­wood Jr., PETES will still be well over ca­pa­ci­ty next year. There are cur­rent­ly 75 in­co­ming kin­der­gar­ten stu­dents re­gis­te­red to at­tend the school next year, a num­ber ex­pec­ted to climb, no­ted Gal­ley.

In ad­di­tion, ano­ther 36 sa­tel­lite stu­dents cur­rent­ly at­ten­ding kin­der­gar­ten at Mount Plea­sant Ele­men­ta­ry in Hud­son will re­turn next year.

“ So we’ll have the same num­ber of stu­dents, they’ll just be smal­ler,” Gal­ley said with a laugh, ad­ding that PETES, like most crow­ded off-is­land schools has had no word on when or where a new English ele­men­ta­ry school ex­pec­ted to help ease the si­tua­tion will be built.

PHOTO KRIS­TI­NA ED­SON

A PETES tea­cher uses a co­zy for­mer cloak-room that was tur­ned in­to an of­fice to catch up on some work.

PHOTO KRIS­TI­NA ED­SON

Col­leen Gal­ley shows off a space now used by a spe­cial needs tea­cher.

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