Carbonear Academy opens its doors
A construction trailer still sits on the lawn in front of Carbonear Academy, the brand new state-of-the-art school for kindergarten to Grade 8 students in Carbonear. After months of construction, the bang of hammers and hum of heavy equipment has subsided.
When the first few students arrive Sept. 5 for their very first day at Carbonear Academy, they begin to look around, hoping to see a familiar face.
Some parents accompany their children up the winding wheelchair ramp — there are no stairs — from the crosswalk on Valley Road to the sidewalk next to the brand new grey, yellow and blue building.
Swarms of students gather under the bright yellow Carbonear Academy sign at the main entrance, some glancing through the glass-paned doors to see where they will spend the next 10 months. The doors are locked.
Laughter can be heard coming from a group of five girls who have just reunited after the summer break, while several boys moan and groan about having to return to school.
Principal Charlene Walsh-Grimes makes her way to the main entrance from inside the building wearing a bright orange and yellow safety vest. Staff members — Walsh-Grimes included — will be taking turns helping students into the school and off the bus.
She pushes the door open and stands against it, allowing students and parents to flood the vestibule before going through a second set of doors to the main lobby.
And so it begins
The halls that were silent only moments ago are now resonating with voices and alive with activity.
“Grade 2 is down the hall,” a male voice is heard above the crowd. “Grade 6, go straight down and up the stairs.” A man from the school district points to the western hallway.
Although hundreds of children are making their way through the corridor, the atmosphere is far from chaotic. In fact, it is very orderly.
“There are usually a few hiccups,” says Walsh-Grimes. “But things are going pretty smoothly. I am tickled pink at the results.”
Many staff members agreed, with a few adding that they will finally get some sleep tonight.
Several parents wait at the entrance directly opposite the main for their children to get off the bus.
“This was her first bus ride,” Janice Baldwin, mother to Grade 1 student Rachel Rodgers, says as she walks her daughter towards her new classroom.
Although some parents were worried about the buses and ensuring their children get home on time, the school helped make it easier.
The teachers put stickers with bus numbers on the students’ backpacks and coats, reminding them to not lose it, in hopes the bus run will be smooth after school ends.
After nearly an hour, all students were in their classrooms and parents were on their way out the door.
Parents weigh in
Some parents sat next to the office discussing the transition for their children.
“I have no concerns about the new school, I just hope there is no bullying,” Sheila Roul tells the group.
Three mothers did agree that their children will walk away if a bullying situation presents itself.
Violet Parsons-Pack, a senior education officer for the new school board, does not believe there will be an issue with bullying.
“We have cameras all over the school,” she explains.
Walsh-Grimes also notes students will not be allowed off school property without being signed out by a parent. This includes their lunch break. Students will, however, be allowed to walk home for lunch with the approval of a parent or guardian.
Physical education teacher Zoë Hamilton says the older and younger grades will be staggered for their lunch break, leaving less chance of interaction among them.
The cafeteria is a fair size, but The Compass has learned it is not large enough to hold even half of the school population. Some children will have to eat at their desks, a staff member explains.
“The Grade 8s are only the Grade 5s from a few years ago,” one mother adds. “I don’t think there will be an issue.”
Parents were was caught off guard earlier this year when an announcement was made that the school was built with four less classrooms than actually needed.
This project is in progress, but there was no definitive deadline available from the school board Sept. 5.
Besides the addition, most of the school is ready to go, with the exception of the gymnasium.
Green painter’s tape is stuck down on the floor in preparation for painting the lines. School staff members believe it will be completed this weekend.
Until then, physical education and music teacher Trevor Smith says they are lucky to have “an amazing recreation facility across the street.”
“We are working with Rob Button (Carbonear’s recreation director) on different things, including the possibility of implementing a swimming program,” he explains. “It’s a life skill that students could benefit from. “
Although school board officials initially told The Compass on Sept. 3 that work is expected to last several weeks, administration believes the gym could be ready as early as Sept. 8.
Grade 1 student Rachel Rodgers (right) was all smiles after her first ever bus ride to school. She started classes at Carbonear Academy — a brand new kindergarten to Grade 8 school — last week. Rachel’s mom, Janice Baldwin, drove to school to meet the bus and see her daughter conclude the first of many bus trips. Rachel said she was excited to be at the school and liked her first experience on the big yellow bus before energetically frolicking off to class, hand in hand with mom.