Administrators back home at High River school
Education: Notre Dame Collegiate opens eight months after flood
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Mar 05, 2014 06:00 am
Two Okotoks residents who are administrators at a High River high school have discovered Thomas Wolfe was wrong: “You can go home again.”
Principal Paul Dunphy and vice-principal Bob Murray joined staff and about 300 Grade 7-12 students in returning to Notre Dame Collegiate High School on Feb. 25, just over eight months after the school was closed by the June 20 flood in High River.
Dunphy was supervising the Biology 20 final exam when the flood hit.
“The Town came in to evacuate us and I was thinking, ‘Oh it can’t be that serious,’’’ Dunphy said. “Then I saw the water coming in across the field and I knew it was serious.”
The school suffered extensive damage, which include the warping of the gym floor and much of the school had to be stripped.
“In September or October you could have driven by and see through the school, it was just steel studs and cinder that’s all that was left,” Dunphy said.
He and Murray spent a summer at their Okotoks homes worrying how their students and staff who lived in High River were faring.
“Volunteering helped me — that was huge,” Murray said. “I would also run into students who were in Okotoks and they would tell me just amazing stories… you would worry was everybody okay.”
Dunphy estimated two-thirds of the school staff lives in High River.
“It was a matter of putting your nose to the grindstone and doing what we could to help,” Dunphy said. “As long as you were doing something, cleaning out a basement, whatever it seemed to help.”
However, the school year was fast approaching. Fortunately, the students and staff were welcomed with open arms to Senator Riley School.
The public school system had the east wing and the separate school the west wing. If there’s a rivalry between the two schools, it got washed away with the flood.
“It was amazing,” Murray said. “When we left, they had all of their students out who had made posters for us. It was great being there.”
However, be it ever so humble, there is no place like home. Both Dunphy and Murray were delighted to back in their desks and watching the students roam the halls of NDC last week.
“On Monday (Feb. 24), there was a lot of hustle and bustle and every night there are some trades-people, there is still a ways to go — we still need to attach four portables — but to think that you see through the school just five months ago, is pretty incredible,” Dunphy said.
However, schools aren’t about brick and mortar it’s about people.
“It has been like a haze the last eight months to just go with the flow,” Dunphy said. “Now we have students sitting at the tables and you can walk by and say hello. The students have a place where they can hang out and enjoy being in high school. Senator Riley was great, but we didn’t have those things.”
“It was always “I can’t wait to get back,’” Murray said. “We’re just now starting to get back in the routine with the kids.”
The move back to Notre Dame Collegiate is not done yet.
Dunphy estimates there are still 1,000 boxes that have to be unpacked — some of the materials which haven’t been used since the flood.
“A lot of our teachers don’t know what has been saved and what hasn’t,” Dunphy said. “It’s going to be tough when we unload those boxes.”
Both Murray and Dunphy will be talking to staff and students to monitor how they are handling the stress of the flood — especially as June 20 approaches.
“We have to understand that everybody has gone through a tough summer and year,” Dunphy said. “We have to make sure we approach everything with compassion and love.”
It’s been an unforgettable time coming home.
“When it’s over and we’re are now back, we’re kind of going ‘Oh, wow, did we really do that?’” Murray said.