Teachers at c’usqunela elementary finally started unpacking equipment and supplies Monday morning setting up for students whose first day will be on Wednesday.
The school was a hive of last-minute activity with labourers putting final touches of paint in the halls and decals on the front office windows.
Delivery trucks carrying books and other supplies lined the front of the school.
Chairs and tables were being wheeled along the hallways to their destined classrooms.
This day has been a long time coming for principal Jon Wheatley after the opening day had to be delayed by three weeks because the building’s mechanical systems had to undergo testing.
Since Sept. 3, c’usqunela students and their teachers had to attend different schools in the eastern part of the district.
Wheatley is in awe of the architecture and design of the new building now that he is finally in it.
“The heart of c’usqunella is around First Nations, beliefs and community,” said Wheatley.
“Our gym is built to look like part of a long house. So we’ve got some beautiful wooden beams in here as well the multi-purpose room for all of our fine arts programming is placed right beside the gym so we can open the doors and we can have performances at any time. It’s a wonderful space for kids,” he said.
The school is comprised of pods that have three classrooms surrounding a common area for students and a common door leading outside. The area on the outside has a covered work space where students can garden or do woodworking. There is also a ‘breakout’ room attached to each pod where students can go if they need a quieter space to work by themselves or with a teacher.
“They are meant to be a small school within a big school,” said Wheatley about the pods.
“It’s a very unique design and it’s meant to really bring the kids together and feel that sense of community and to be working together,” he continued.
Nick Warren, who will be teaching Grade 5/6, is excited to be setting up his classroom in anticipation of 25 students. He loves the open concept of the school, the large windows and the wilderness that surrounds the school.
Wheatley says the emphasis at the school will be in the fine arts and the performing arts because children love to sing, dance and move.
He wants to, “bring out some of those things which bring joy to kids which don’t always happen as much as we would like.”
He also said that the school belief is that connection comes before content and that kids learn best when they have a good relationship with their teacher and those around them.
“In years past, schools would often look at what’s the best curriculum to be working with kids. We still do that,” said Wheatley.
“But he most important thing for us is the relationship we have with the children and having a strong connection with them. We know then that the best learning and the happiest children will happen,” he said.
Wheatley has organized an official walk to the school for students and teachers of c’usqunela that he is calling The Great Trek. On Wednesday they will be meeting at the Albion Sports Complex and walking to the school as one big group.
“We wanted to make a great memory for the kids,” said Wheatley noting that the school’s motto is, Walk together as one, learn together as one.
“It’s very symbolic. The kids are coming from many different schools and it’s important that on the first day that we are coming together as a group and feeling like we are as one as a school,” he added.
“It just really represents what we are going to be as a school on the first day.”