Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 15, 2004
Community welcomes Holy Family
Changed regulations opens Waskateneau Catholic school
By BILL GLEN
WCR Staff Writer
Brightening up the old school here had much more to do with religious conversion than with fresh paint and window treatments.
Until recently a closed public education building with puddle grey hallways and dog-eared locker doors, the school in Waskateneau has been reborn into a vibrant Catholic education facility with prayer corners in every classroom. The community is grateful it came.
Holy Family Catholic School (K-8) is new. The walls are bright. The gymnasium and large stage are polished for the children who are attentive and happy. They gather every morning in prayer and reflection.
And the lockers have all been replaced.
A family feeling
"You wouldn't believe the community support - finally having a Catholic school," said principal Andrew McInnis. "It's very much a family feeling."
The Alberta government recently changed legislation granting a school district the right to expand its boundaries to offer Catholic education in an area formerly served by a public school board.
In April 2002, Lakeland Catholic Schools, based in Bonnyville, received an official request from parents in the Waskateneau area (including Smoky Lake, Vilna and Radway) for Catholic education. The board then made a request to the province.
Approval for the expansion was announced in July 2004, giving staff and parents little time to renovate for a fall opening.
But they did, and Bishop Luc Bouchard of St. Paul blessed Holy Family on Oct. 7.
Grade 5-6 teacher Janine French was one of several people unpacking boxes and moving furniture the weekend before the first day of classes. She commutes daily from Edmonton. The energy and excitement of the students help to make the drives fly by.
"Everything is so fresh. The teachers are new with new ideas. The parents have been amazing, setting up the classrooms for us," French said.
"We wanted to set up a school with Catholic values and morals."
Students had previously been bused to public schools in Smoky Lake and Vilna. The government's district expansion plans was a strong catalyst for the community to make a pitch to reopen the Waskateneau school for Catholic education and faith development.
"We recently had a pumpkin liturgy for Halloween. Each child carved a pumpkin and we lit them. We used it to show our motto - how God's light shines in each of us.
"Rather than just dressing up and handing out candy, we wanted to use the moment to include it in our Catholic faith," French said.
"We sang songs and read a poem. Parents came out. The kids loved it."
Lianne Long is a parent volunteer at the school. She has sons in both Grades 1 and 2. She signed the petition to bring Catholic education to Waskateneau.
"I really wanted to see the school here," she said. "I have been involved in both school systems and the difference I have seen having the Catholic school is that the teachers talk to the kids. They feel they are part of the classroom and are included in all of the activities. That is really important to me."
McInnis is grateful for volunteers like Long. The school's budget does not have enough funds to hire a full-time office manager, so Kim Ness donates some 30 hours a week to fill the void.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, businesses and restaurants provide hot lunches for the school, at no profit to them. The parents pay for the meals.
McInnis has noticed a strong faith presence in the community. Parents and visitors are always welcomed to come to the school for prayer and sharing.
"I think this is precedent setting," McInnis said. "There is myself and four teachers who have all just graduated from university. We have 56 students enrolled, but we have room for many more. If we could teach 100 children, we would be very fortunate."
"I have been involved in both school systems and the difference I have seen having the Catholic school is that the teachers talk to the kids."
- Lianne Long
With the standard curriculum, McInnis has instituted his own desire that the students practise the 3 Rs - to respect, reach out and be responsible. The school stresses there will be no bullying, with charts called Bully Busters in plain view.
McInnis wants the children to have fun while learning Catholic values through practice.
"Really, the more rules you make, the more kids will try to get around them," he said. "But we do make Christian values an expectation. We have to teach them in an experiential way."
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.