Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 20, 2004
How cool is this!
Today's Parent Magazine salutes St. Mary-St. Monica Elementary and St. Edmund Elementary/Junior High schools.
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Dr. Dale Ripley might be excused if he is showing a little favouritism these days. After all, it is not every day two schools in the Edmonton Catholic School district are recognized nationally.
In a recent survey published in Today's Parent magazine, St. Mary-St. Monica Elementary School and St. Edmund Elementary/Junior High School were prominently mentioned after a search for 40 great schools in Canada.
St. Mary-St. Monica, with its one school, two-campus concept, was voted ahead of all others in the All Around Cool School category. St. Edmund received an honourable mention for its enrolment turn around, in the Extraordinary Extracurriculars category.
"St. Mary-St. Monica is the coolest school in Canada," said Ripley, superintendent of Edmonton Catholic Schools. "I can think of no school in the nation more deserving."
St. Monica is the only school in the Edmonton Catholic district with a K-1 program, focused solely on early learning. Its d‚cor and programming are specifically designed for children five and six years old.
This year, it brought in four-year-olds for a junior kindergarten.
There is cutting edge technology in the school, in terms of students' work being on-line where parents can see their child's progress. They also have classroom websites.
Parents who have not been in a school for some time walk in and are blown away because it is so different, Ripley said.
Today's Parent advocates for a better world for our children. The magazine, based in Toronto, does not dictate child-rearing approaches, but rather offers information that invites parents to adopt those suggestions that may work for their own families.
St. Mary serves the same Riverbend neighbourhood with Grades 2 to 6 classes a couple of blocks away from St. Monica.
A large crucifix adorned with ceramic tiles, hand painted by students and staff stands proudly in the northwest corner of St. Mary school property. Principal Margo McGee says it is a testament to the Catholic spirit in the community because a parent of a child in the school designed it.
"I think that is really exciting," McGee said of the award. "One of our beautiful dimensions is that because there are many specialized programs out there available to parents, our programs reach out to every child.
"We are an inclusive school, so all of the programs we have are for all students."
The school recently instituted a robotics lab for enrichment in math and science.
Last year, it introduced an adventure week program, where each class spends a week away from the school to experience learning in another setting in Edmonton. Some classes went to the Muttart Conservatory while others went to the Odyssium. The Edmonton Art Gallery was involved, as was the Provincial Museum.
This year, the Grade 6 students will go to the Alberta Legislature.
"There are definite curriculum links to the program of studies," McGee said. "It is taking advantage of programs already in place on these sites. The experts then work with our staff to create an enriched program for the students."
Marie Whelan, principal of St. Monica, said it was exciting to be recognized, but also humbling because there are so many programs in the Edmonton Catholic district.
A magical place
"St. Monica is a magical place," Whelan said. "We now have programs for junior kindergarten children, so we have a school full of more than 200 four, five and six-year-old children. Everyone is focused on learning for young children."
The staff is hand-picked specifically for early learning. Children are exposed to a variety of specialists through the school's artists in residence program. For weeks at a time, a sculptor, or an author perhaps, comes to the school. Each classroom gets an hour per week with the specialist.
"If you imagine all those children and the kind of environment and excellent programs the teachers have created for them, it is indeed magical," she said.
St. Edmund was a school facing enrolment decline in a large facility. To make it more attractive, hockey and soccer academies, along with an international baccalaureate program, were added. Students from across north Edmonton now attend the school.