First day of school has come and gone and now we’re slowly getting into the swing of things. Given the extraordinary transition this school year between the new St. James and the new Assumption Middle School, there have been some inherent challenges that we can expect every time a change of this magnitude is implemented. Although it may be frustrating to some parents, I can advise that teachers, principals, support staff and administration are working hard to rectify any issues that pop up.
As your trustee, it is my duty to inform you of the status of our schools in the west-end and to express your concerns to our administration to ensure that your voices are heard. That is what I’ve always done and that is what I’ll always continue to do. With that in mind, I intend to provide you with a school status report, beginning with St. James.
St. James K-6 Catholic Elementary School
The main issue I’ve heard to date from families include the heat in the school, particularly in the gymnasium where our JK and SK students are temporarily being placed. As you can imagine, it certainly doesn’t help with this heat wave that we’re currently experiencing. After receiving several calls from concerned parents, I immediately contacted the principal, Doris Baggio, and others to ensure that we are doing everything possible to mitigate against the heat. To date, I can advise that 5 fans have been installed and that a technician has been working diligently on fixing some A/C issues in the school. I will be attending the school tomorrow morning and will continue to work diligently with Principal Baggio to find solutions to this issue. More to come in this regard.
With respect to the construction of the addition, I asked our superintendent overseeing the project for an update and if there is anything that can be done to expedite the process. The board received unexpected requirements and layers of approval such as an archeological study and other ministry approvals. With that in mind, the actual work on-site for the archeological review will only take a day or two (according to our superintendent) with a formal, written report to be provided by the consultant within a week or so. As for expediting the process, our superintendent has stated that they’ve been pushing on every front to get a shovel in the ground for St. James and are moving the project along as quickly as possible. He further stated that typically, such projects take 6 to 8 months just to get through the design and approval process before they are even sent out for bids from contractors. We are only about 3 and half months in since the Ministry funding approval on May 19th. The added twist for St. James is that it is being funded through the full day kindergarten program (FDK), which required a further Ministry approval to proceed, this approval having only been received on August 30th.
Administration further stated that the City went above and beyond to get the permits expedited for the Assumption Middle School and that they are pressing them to do the same for St. James.
Given the FDK approval process, the archeological requirement and other factors, administration is still projecting that the construction will be complete by the end of November or early December, although they further state that this is an extraordinarily quick timeline for project completion. Principal Baggio will continue to inform the community, as will I, on the progress and timelines.
Assumption Catholic Middle School
With the intent of not writing a novel, I will attempt to be as concise as possible in responding to some concerns from parents. First, I would like to refer parents to the Principal’s report and a brief update from Principal Riberdy on the state of the middle school by clicking on the link below which sends you directly to his blog. Please subscribe if you haven’t already.
I personally visited the school yesterday to see firsthand the progress and the concerns expressed by parents. Here is my update in bullet form:
· Lockers are coming soon. They will be placed in a small corridor and each student will have one.
· Doors on classes and door knobs on some doors will be installed shortly. Just need the people in to do it after school hours. That's coming soon.
· For the few rooms that need it, utilities delivered fans to the classrooms today and they stated that the air conditioners should be installed tomorrow.
· Caution tape separating the middle school is temporary. An announcement was made on the first day from the principal at Assumption high school telling students not to cross that area and there are protocols in place to ensure that will not happen. The Principal stated that a wall with secure access will be there within approximately two weeks
· Although this is well known, for those who may not know, a new gym will be built for the middle school. In the meantime, students will have phys ed outside, at Assumption HS gym where there's no conflict and at the St. John's gym until the new gym is built. It will take some time and there will be a courtyard too that will be built but don't expect that for a few months assuming all goes well.
· The walk outside to the cafeteria on the first day was a decision made by the principal to get students out. Students will not be doing that going forward, save and except times where the principal decides to have them out for exercise.
· The school installed a water dispenser so that students can fill up water bottles. Those students who wanted water but didn't bring water bottles were given a bottle of water that they can fill up as needed. A fountain is scheduled to be installed off of the chapel hallway today.
As I hear more I will keep you informed and I ask that you do the same so that we can address these issues on a timely basis.
For those who may not be aware, I want to inform you of the general protocol when it comes to addressing issues or concerns. First you should contact the principal to resolve questions or concerns at the school level. If that is not successful, then the next step is to contact the school superintendent, and if that is not successful, you then contact the Director of Education. With that in mind, you can always contact me and I will refer you to the appropriate person.
Lastly, I would like to thank all of the teachers, principals, support staff and administration for all of your help during this challenging period. I would also like to personally thank all of the families who have been patient and understanding throughout, and everyone who has contacted me with their concerns and questions. As your trustee, it is my duty to always tell you the facts, even if they are not popular. This is my duty not just to you as a parent, but more importantly to our students whose education is in the board’s care. When I was sworn in as a trustee and gave my oath, I knew that the road ahead would be challenging, but I also knew that the underlying purpose – the education of our students – is so great that we can overcome these challenges if we work together and always focus on the big picture. So many of you have and I am so grateful for that. Thank you.