Car­bon­ear Acad­emy opens its doors

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BYMELISSA JENK­INS

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.

Photo by Melissa Jenk­ins

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.

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