Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 27, 2004
Jump for joy at Pope John XXIII
Parents pitch in to dismantle old playground to make way for new play space
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Pope John XXIII Catholic School in Fort Saskatchewan decided to implement some changes before the start of the 2004-2005 school year, and almost two dozen moms and dads got into a big schoolyard scrap.
Not that it had anything to do with fisticuffs, mind you.
The adults combined forces last May to scrap the school's old playground after an Elk Island Catholic Schools' inspection deemed the recreation area unsafe.
Time to pitch in
The report gave the school three years to make the changes, just enough time for the school's parent council to raise $172,000 from numerous hot dog lunches and raffles, a car wash-barbecue and a matching grant from the Alberta government.
It showed the wonder of the Catholic community in Fort Saskatchewan, said principal Todd Eistetter.
"Three weeks after the demolition, about 60 people helped at different times over three days, with the new installation."
The grounds had to be fenced to allow for new grass to root and grow. When the fence came down in August, Eistetter said 50 children were ripping around the site.
"Since that time, it has been a real magnet for the community," he said.
Now outfitted with colourful slides, monkey bars and swings, the playground sees upwards of 200 children at play during recess.
A soft, wood-chip base makes the area wheelchair accessible compared to more traditional sand, said Yvonne Soucy, who spearheaded a fundraising drive for more than three years.
"Our children had a need to have a nice place to play while getting their Catholic education," Soucy said. "If children can burn off their energy, it helps with their learning."
The school has also undergone a recent reconfiguration as part of a plan adopted by the board to better serve Catholic students in Fort Saskatchewan.
Before the shuffle, Pope John XXIII (K-6) and Our Lady of the Angels (1-8) had a crossover draw for students from the same age groups. Eistetter also explained that when the Grade 6s left the elementary school, they were at OLA for only two years. It never gave them much time to become a part of the school.
Now that the schools have been adjusted to K-4 and 5-8 with grades 9-12 in John Paul II High School, while managing roughly the same enrolment base, there is a noticeable change in the elementary school children.
Getting the parents to accept changes to busing and pick-up times was inevitable, but Eistetter thinks most everyone is onside.
"This is our first year of K-4 and it coincides perfectly with the new playground," he said.
"Even at start-up this year, parents and staff said how much calmer it is on the playground and in the hallways. It has been amazing. And we haven't dropped much in enrolment - from 300 to 270 students.
"We are finding the children to be nicer to each other. School has been open only a few weeks, but the Grade 4s are so polite now.
Spirit of sharing
"There is a spirit of sharing. They know they are the oldest and I think they understand they are leader role models."
The Catholic schools in Fort Saskatchewan will perform at the new Dow Centennial Theatre as part of the centre's opening night celebrations Sept. 30. Entitled The Spirit Within, the 90-minute show will feature creative talents from dance to poetry recital; from choir to original artworks.
Eistetter says the show will showcase the Catholic community in Fort Saskatchewan.
"We want to tie the schools together to show what the kids can do. The closing number will have all the students on stage to sing Jump; a song that expresses jumping for their love of God."