Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
October 15, 2001
Grande Prairie says it has 'Alberta's nicest high school'
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
GRANDE PRAIRIE — Students and teachers at St. Joseph's High School are excited about their new school. And with good reason. They now have what principal David Langill calls "the nicest high school in Alberta."
In contrast to the old St. Joe, a classical school facility with a narrow hallway and a bunch of classrooms, the new school at 10520-68 Ave. is an inviting, welcoming high tech facility featuring vast open spaces, lots of natural light, inviting colours, doorless classrooms, a large gym and a theatre. A state of the art chapel is placed right in the centre of the building.
"The school is really massive compared to our old school but we do have lots of new programming because the new school lends itself to that," Langill said in an Oct. 1 telephone interview. "Everybody who comes into our building is completely awestruck because it's very unlike any other school."
Students are also enchanted with the new facility, especially those in Grades 11 and 12 who remember what the old school was like, the principal said.
"Kids were shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, in this one hallway trying to get from one classroom to the other. It was unbelievable, it was so crowded."
Grade 12 student Sabrina Lindquist remembers well. "In the old school the hallways were always busy and it was a little claustrophobic but it wasn't too bad. You felt closer to everyone because it was so small."
What about the new St. Joseph? "The new school is definitely bigger and more organized, really a 21st-century facility," she said. "The architecture is new, something I've never seen before. The same with the decorating - lots of bright colours and lots of open spaces."
The new St. Joseph's, a two-storey facility made of brick, wood, drywall and "lots of glass," was built at a cost of $16 million including equipment and furnishings.
Teacher Jennifer Martin is pleased with the new school.
"This is a wonderful place to be," she said. "There is much more light. I think all the classrooms have windows so there is lots of natural light. Lots of the classrooms are very open, some don't have doors or some don't have four walls."
The old school building at 11410-104 St., opened in 1968, was sold to Wapiti Academy to operate a high school.
"We have an expanding school district and so the school became too small," explained Langill.
St. Joseph, formerly a Grade 10-to-12 school with about 500 students, became a 700-student school this year as it took up all the Grade 9 students in the Grande Prairie Catholic School Division.
School officials started pulling together ideas for their new school about three years ago by visiting high schools across Alberta and British Columbia.
"We looked at all kinds of buildings and then, through a process of consultation with our teachers, our parents, our kids and our board members, we took all the best ideas and we made them better and they are now part of our brand new high school," Langill said. "So we have the nicest high school in the province."
The school features three wings per floor, including one for humanities, another for math and sciences, and a third for the Career and Technology Studies department, which has expanded its course offerings.
"We have all kinds of course offerings including food, fashion, construction, fabrication, mechanics," explained Langill.
In the core of the building there is a black box and a theatre which St. Joseph's uses for student fine art presentations. Behind the theatre is the music room that is used, among other things, to teach the district's dance program.
There is also a large gym, which can also double as a classroom if necessary.
The school chapel, which features stained glass windows from the 1880s, is on the second floor and right in the middle of the school, facing the student gathering area. As Langill noted, the chapel's prominence makes the Catholicity of St. Joseph "very apparent."
That wasn't so in the old school, he said. "All our (Grade) 11 and 12 (students) remember that the last school didn't even have a chapel. Now they have a place where they can go and pray with their class."
Martin said teachers meet every morning in the chapel for prayer. "It's a wonderful place to be, really focused on prayer."
St. Joseph High is one of six Catholic schools in Grande Prairie and the only Catholic high school in the city.
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