Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of May 24, 1999
St. Joe's High School builds a theatre
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
St. Joseph's High School will soon serve as a hub for local schools looking for a museum-type field trip.
Included in its $9-million renovation, is an interpretive centre, soon to be home of the history of Catholic education in the Edmonton Archdiocese.
"I think this is the first of its kind," said Ron Woytiuk of the centre. "It's certainly going to be a division facility, available to all the schools in the district."
The interpretive centre is presently used as a library while the school undergoes major renovations, to convert the school into an open space learning environment better equipped for its new "individualized self-paced learning" program.
The program eliminates the traditional classroom setting and allows students, with the help of teachers and other school resources, to study at their own speed.
The renovations also include a rotunda serving as the main entrance and leading into an indoor courtyard. Opposite the courtyard will be a theatre, the heart of social and arts events for the school district.
"We should have had something like this long ago," Woytiuk said. "It can be used for drama productions, concerts. Anybody in the district can use it, not just the schools."
Although the theatre and interpretive centre will be housed at St. Joseph's, it is not exclusive to its students and staff. It will serve as a district-wide facility as well as for committees and organizations within the diocese.
It is the first of its kind in the district, Woytiuk said.
David Johnston, fundraiser coordinator for the theatre and interpretive centre, suspects the centre to be the first of its kind in Canada.
Johnston said the school district has school artifacts dating back more than 100 years stored in boxes.
"We want to get these things out of the boxes and show them to the public," he said. "It's a century's worth of Catholic education in Edmonton."
The fundraising effort, which started at the beginning of 1999, has kicked off slow, only because "people are not aware of it," Johnston said.
"I think people are confused about it. In Edmonton there are a lot of things with the name St. Joseph's. There's the college, the seminary, the school.
"When you ask people to contribute to this, they say, 'Oh, I gave money to that last year.' They don't realize this is something completely different. This is a bit of an education for them as well."
Johnston estimates there are about $100,000 in pledges, but also notes other donations such as services and gifts are being offered in lieu of money.
The foundation of the theatre was poured more than a year ago when the modernization project began.
The south wing of the school, with its teal and maroon lockers and shiny new tiled walls were completed with plans of a theatre included.
But the plans hit a financial barrier when provincial funding would not cover the expenses because the project was not considered acceptable under guidelines for basic education funding.
The theatre, formerly a small gymnasium, was roughed in and cement was poured to form stairs leading to tiered rows where theatre-style seats would later be installed. Chairs have been set up and the unfinished theatre has been used for school and band events and Knights of Columbus socials.
The school board is fronting the bill for the completion of the theatre while the funds are being raised, Woytiuk said.
The project is expected to be completed in September, prior to the start of the school year.
The upper level of the theatre leads out into a reception area which includes a glass pyramid overlooking a 100-foot mural, the focal point of the interpretive centre just below.
Completed by art teacher Hank Zyp and past and present art students, the mural is representative of people who made an impact, including Jesus Christ, who is at the centre of the mural.
The interpretive centre will play a multi-purpose role in the district. First, it will act as an archive housing more than a century's worth of photos and historical documents. It will also serve as a visual arts gallery, to display works of students, a sports hall of fame and a multi-media centre.
For more information on the project, call David Johnston at 441-6189.