High River: Holy Spirit Academy students out of Highwood Memorial Centre

By: Bruce Campbell

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Dec 04, 2013 10:38 am

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Disaster can help put everything in perspective.

If someone had told Holy Spirit Academy principal Dorothy White on June 19 her students and staff would be in 26 portable classrooms more than 10 kilometres from her school, she might have retired.

However, more than five months after the pre-kindergarten to Grade 6 Holy Spirit Academy was devastated by the June 20 flood in High River, she is delighted to have her students all in one location in the portables at Notre Dame Collegiate after spending the last five months at the Highwood Memorial Centre.

“This is absolutely wonderful to have all our students under one roof,” White said. “The students are in their individual classrooms with their teacher, so the number of students in each room is considerable lower.”

The 430 students were at the Highwood Memorial Centre since Sept. 9 as a result of the flood damage at Holy Spirit Academy.

The students shared the Memorial Centre with user groups, meaning staff and students had to clear things out almost nightly — especially for the weekend.

“It has been five months of a lot of work,” White said. “There have been some disappointments, but the outpouring of goodwill from this province and the people around the country has been so uplifting.

“There is a huge silver-lining in this really rotten cloud.”

She said the goal was to try and bring some normalcy at the makeshift school for the young students who had gone through so much.

“These were kids who in many cases had lost their homes, parents may have lost livelihoods, friends had moved away, there were these emotional levels as well,” White said, adding many of her staff were also hit hard by the flood.

The students, who had to walk about three blocks to nearby Spitzee school for recess, appear none the worse for wear academically.

“We said right from Day 1, that we are here to teach and these kids deserve an education,” White said. “Despite the challenges of being in those large areas, the curriculum continued.

“We just had report cards and parent-teacher interviews and the kids are doing amazingly well.”

Despite the unique teaching conditions, a sense of normalcy was provided to the students.

“They thrive on structure and normalcy and school provided that,” she said. “It was a place to come every day, their friends were there and it made their world a little bit easier and for their parents too.”

Christ the Redeemer superintendent of schools Scott Morrison said he was delighted to have the students out of the Memorial Centre.

“This was like Christmas — people are happy to finally have kids in regular classrooms,” Morrison said. “We are extremely relieved right now.”

He credited the teachers and staff for making the Highwood Memorial Centre school experience as positive as possible.

He said there were some benefits to the experience.

“I think the teachers now understands one another’s crafts and they know one another as colleagues much better than they did three months ago,” Morrison said. “That will be a benefit. I think it will lead to improved collaborations.”

At present the Notre Dame Collegiate students, Grade 7-12, are sharing facilities at Foothills School Division’s Senator Riley School. The Notre Dame Collegiate students are expected to return to their school in February 2014.

Holy Spirit Academy will not be ready until the fall of 2014. The students will remain in the portables for the remainder of the year.

“This was like Christmas — people are happy to finally have kids in regular classrooms,” Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools superintendent Scott Morrison said. “


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