School council chairs feel backup plan would work

Cory
Cory Hurley
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Work continues on Corner Brook's new junior high school on Thursday, May 15, 2014. If  renovations are not completed by September students from both G.C Rowe Junior High and Presentation Junior High will still amalgamate and be housed at G. C. Rowe until the building is ready.

Both chairs of their respective school councils believe the contingency plan for the suspected delay in the opening of Corner Brook’s junior high school is the best it can be given the situation.

If the renovations to the former Regina High are not complete in time for the September opening — which will likely be the case due to some construction delays — the entire student populations of G.C. Rowe and Presentation will still come together as one.

The temporary location will be G.C. Rowe.

If the delay is only a short one, the start of the school year will also be delayed until the facility is ready. If the delay is weeks or months, G.C. Rowe has been deemed sufficient to house all the students without much inconvenience.

Both Pat Hickey, chair of the Rowe council, and Patricia Edwards, co-chair of the Presentation council, agree it is unfortunate the students are faced with two moves, but said the plan would work in the interim. Both said G.C. Rowe’s wide halls and large classroom spaces are adequate for the larger population, while classrooms can be adjusted to continue offering laboratories and extracurricular activities.

“We have met as joint councils and the plan, in my opinion, was well thought out,” Hickey said. “I think it is going to work short term. I don’t think there will be any major issues.”

The councils will attempt to make G.C. Rowe more generic over the summer to avoid having any students feel uncomfortable attending the cross-town facility. While that is important to Hickey, he does not believe it is something the students are thinking about.

“Kids are so resilient,” he said. “It’s not like these kids live in separate communities. They already hang out together, play on different sports teams together ... they know them outside of school. It will be like going to school with even more of your friends.”

Edwards said the plan put in place provides the least amount of disruption to the students and teachers. She was impressed with the detail to which they are planning to lessen the impact of the transition, including assigning the same classroom numbers as would be used in the new junior high.

She said it was important for the students the amalgamation wasn’t delayed.

“There would have been some disappointment if there hadn’t been some movement or move towards that new opening or transition,” she said. “With a sense of anticipation, some students will be looking forward to September with new peers and new teachers.”

Both said there are some inconveniences from a busing perspective due to the change in location. Parking was also identified as a concern. However, they expect those specifics will also be worked out.

Meanwhile, Darrin Pike, the chief executive officer/director of education, said the message to the contractor continues to be to push toward the September opening. Pike admits, however, there is a lot to be done before that can happen.

The new school’s main ventilation system is not expected until sometime in July. It will then have to be installed and configured, said Pike.

With so much left to do, he said it is important to proceed with the contingency plan. Pike could not say how temporary the move would be, stressing he hopes the new school can be ready for September.

Teachers and administrators were given their notices May 7 with respect to their positions for the next year. Pike said this is typical procedure, but unique because every position in the two schools has changed with the amalgamation.

The majority of staff would have been reassigned to the new school, he said. The number of positions for the new school is fairly close to the number that was required for both facilities, the director said.

A principal and vice-principal are expected to be named soon, with the remainder of the administration to be assigned in the coming weeks. That will also have an impact on teacher allocation, Pike said.

“For the most part, the number of people who worked in those two buildings will pretty much match the number who work in the combined building,” he said. “It doesn’t always work out that way, but it did.”

The school councils — which have agreed not to release the results — have made recommendations to the school board for the name, colours and mascot for the new junior high. Pike said a decision is expected to be made at the board’s June meeting in St. John’s, at which time the results will be made public. Typically, he said, the board accepts the recommendations in such circumstances.

Organizations: Rowe council, Presentation council

Geographic location: Corner Brook

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