Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 30, 2010
New schools sport chapels, Smartboards
Three new state-of-the-art Catholic schools want to create communities of fellowship, faith, social justice
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON - Doors open Sept. 1 for three new Catholic schools in the city.
All of the schools have features that would have been foreign when the students' parents attended school. Every school has a chapel, two of them with fireplaces.
There are modular classrooms, Smartboards and leading edge environmental technology.
At Monsignor Fee Otterson Elementary | Junior High School, co-principal Marie Whelan says teachers and staff are skilled in finding creative ways of integrating technology into the classroom.
"We're developing partnerships with the business community," said Whelan. "It's going to mean additional support for the students, especially our link with the U of A and Concordia because, of course, we are going to have our student teachers in the school."
Teachers were in Banff for a three-day technology conference. One teacher is well versed in Kodu, a new visual programming language made specifically for creating games.
Margo McGee, also co-principal at Monsignor Otterson, said, "The partnership is not just about money. It's also about a partnership in learning. So that's what we're most interested in. Companies that are actively engaged with technology and learning really like to be part of the process, Smart Technologies being one of them. We have Smartboards in all of our classrooms."
The K-7 school will serve up to 500 students this year and has capacity for 650.
Edmonton Catholic Schools invited media to tour its new schools Aug. 18.
Another new school, Monsignor William Irwin Elementary, is located in Terwillegar Towne. The school will serve over 320 students, providing French immersion for kindergarten to Grade 2, and English for kindergarten to Grade 6. The school's capacity is 550 students.
The school is student-friendly, with bright natural light beaming in. The windows are low, allowing for students to gaze outside. The library is Chapters-like, with a large fireplace and comfortable leather furniture. The gymnasium floor is immaculate, with no scratches.
The school's namesake, Irwin, was a man of vision, faith and action who helped others as the founder of Catholic Social Services. The theme for this inaugural school year is the Good Samaritan, a favourite Bible story of Irwin's.
Above the fireplace in the chapel is Principal Reny Clericuzio's favourite symbol, that of Jesus descending from the cross, holding the dove of peace.
The school day goes from 8:25 a.m. until 3:05 p.m., and is keeping the traditional three recesses.
A new trend in schools, which this elementary school is taking full advantage of, is the reverse lunch. When the bell rings at noon, the students go out to play and socialize. After playing, a second bell rings, and then students come in and eat lunch.
Clericuzio said that otherwise some students rush to finish their lunch or skip lunch altogether, which is not conducive to learning or healthy eating.
Sister Annata Brockman Elementary/Junior High School, serving kindergarten to Grade 8 students, is at full capacity, with 528 students enrolled.
"We are happy with our chapel," said Principal Suzanne Szojka. "We have lots and lots of beautiful faith books, and it's just meant to be kind of a quiet place. The kids can come here to pray or to read."
Brockman, a champion of Catholic education, promised the school administrators that she would visit the school regularly. Given her passion for education and faith, the school's sports teams will be known as the Brockman Blaze.
The school's patron will be in the school once a week, talking to students about life and faith, said Szojka. "She will be very visible here. She will be here on the first day, welcoming everybody."
Located in the Hamptons, the school has plenty of green space because a district park surrounds it.
Sandra Esposito, the foods-and-fashion teacher and also the lead teacher for junior high religion, said, "It's like teaching on a golf course."
She was busy setting up the stainless steel appliances, unpacking supplies, and hanging posters in her classroom, to make it homey for the first day.
"I will probably make my room like a little house - that's kind of my style. The school itself is bright, and that's a big thing with the kids," said Esposito.
She envisions fostering the school as a faith-based community.
"Social justice action is kind of my big thing, and I like to get the kids involved. With the junior high kids, I want to take them to the food bank, wrap presents for Santa's Anonymous, and do things like that. As far as the Catholicity goes, there's a good relationship with Good Shepherd Parish," said Esposito.
With students coming from five feeder schools, community building is a definite priority, agreed Szojka. "All of our kids are forming a new community, so we really want to build the importance of what a community is and how we work together as a Catholic learning community."
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