Payton Truc, left, and William Page helped to write the letter to send in the package to the students at Hornby Island Community School. (Contributed)

Maple Ridge students send books to displaced students of Hornby Island school fire

Glenwood elementary teacher says students learned about acts of kindness

A recent fire at a Hornby Island elementary school hit close to home for a teacher in Maple Ridge.

Michele Neale, a Grade 1/2 teacher at Glenwood elementary, heard about the fire while watching Vancouver Island news at home.

Neale, who was raised on Vancouver Island and whose family has summer homes on Hornby Island, said that’s why the event stood out to her when it came on the television.

“In a small community like on Hornby Island, the school is more than just a school, it’s your community centre, it draws people together, it’s devastating for an island,” said Neale about why she decided to talk about the event in her classroom during the first week of school.

The fire at Hornby Island Community School broke out in the early morning hours on Aug. 26 and heavily damaged the school deeming it unsafe to use for the upcoming school year.

Neale’s class made up of 18 students that she had the previous year, who were waiting for the new class configurations to move into their Grade 2/3 class, decided to write a letter to the students displaced from the fire.

“We talked about how sad they would be feeling and the things they would be missing from their classroom (if there was a fire),” explained Neale.

And after her students indicated that they would miss the loss of books the most, Neale decided to purchase a few books to send along with the letter.

“We were sad to hear about your school fire,” began the letter addressed to the primary children at the school.

“We know fires can be scary and do a lot of damage. We wanted you to know that we are thinking about your loss. We also wanted to bring some joy to your school lives. We know books make us happy, smarter and better readers. We thought some new books could help rebuild your classroom collection. We hope you have a good year,” the letter continued, signed by the students in division 14.

The students picked out the books for Neale to purchase including Pig the Star by Aaron Blabey, The Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown, Elephant and Piggie and Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems and The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson.

Neale sent off the package Sept. 14.

“We just wanted to show them that there are people out here that care about what happened to you and that this was just a little token to show we are thinking of you and hope you have a good year,” said Neale.

Students Payton Truc and William Page helped to write the letter to send in the package.

”We felt bad about their school. I would probably cry if it was my school. I would want other people to be kind to me,” said Payton.

“We wanted to show kindness and to make some new friends,” noted William.

Since the fire, a 25-year-old Comox Valley man has been arrested and charged with arson in relation to the fire.

More than 40 students had to start off the school year at Tribune Bay Outdoor Education Centre on Hornby Island.

Comox Valley Schools have since leased Room to Grow and the community hall from the Hornby Island Educational Society and Hornby Island Residents’ and Ratepayers’ Association for use from Monday to Thursday each week until a new permanent space is available.

Neale says her class learned how important kindness is and how you don’t need to receive something back for an act of kindness.

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