It’s back to the classroom this week for thousands of local students as Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools welcomed students Sept. 1st and the Red Deer Public School District begins Sept. 3rd.
There is much to look forward to across the region, said Stu Henry, superintendent of schools for the Red Deer Public School Division.
“First of all, I’m very excited to be doing a new job with an amazing school district,” said Henry, who took over from Piet Langstraat who took the post of superintendent of schools for the Greater Victoria School District in B.C.
“We have such excited and enthusiastic staff that are raring to go for the year.”
Henry was the associate superintendent – learning services, and has been an administrator with Red Deer Public Schools since he joined the district 10 years ago. He has been a teacher and school administrator for 28 years.
“We also have a newly-assembled team in Central Services,” he said. “So there is a lot of enthusiasm and excitement with the new team.”
On the infrastructure front, he pointed out that it will be terrific to see students returning to the newly-renovated Annie L. Gaetz School this week as well. The renovation and modernization of the school included complete architectural, structural, mechanical and electrical upgrades as well as major reconfigurations of the school’s spaces.
“We are also starting work on our new Inglewood school soon.” The $11 million project is set to be open in September of 2017. He added that $600,000 from the City of Red Deer will also see some community space incorporated into the design.
“I think that’s an excellent partnership as well.”
Prior to joining district administration, Henry was principal of Eastview Middle School and was a teacher and administrator in Chinook’s Edge School Division.
Henry said it’s an honour for him to serve in this role and he appreciates the confidence the board has demonstrated in him. “I welcome the opportunity to continue the great work our district has undertaken to best meet the needs of our students. We have an outstanding and committed staff with tremendous support from parents and the community to provide great learning opportunities for students.”
Paul Mason, superintendent of schools for Red Deer Catholic, said he and his staff are very excited about the new school year. “We are once again projecting an increase in enrolment,” he said. “With the past number of years, our actual enrolments have exceeded our projections.
“It’s absolutely my favourite time of year – it’s a wonderful time to be in the schools. The energy and the vitality in the hallways and classrooms is so invigorating.
“It’s also wonderful to see that parents see a faith-based Catholic education system as an option that’s good for their children – we are excited about that.”
There are space concerns, however, but some capital projects in the works will help with that, he said.
Included in the broadening scope of infrastructure projects is St. Joseph’s High School will be able to accommodate 900 students with a build-out to 1,200 students. The school will be located near 30 Ave. and 67 St. and is on track to open in September of 2017.
“We’ve also got significant renovations at St. Marguerite’s in Innisfail and St. Francis here in Red Deer is looking to begin additions/renovations/modernizations to increase our capacities.”
Several other schools have had modular classes added to them over the summer as well.
Meanwhile, as the new school year begins, staff from the transportation department of Red Deer Catholic, Chinook’s Edge along with Prairie Bus Lines are working on a special bus safety program. The Stop on Red, Kids Ahead! campaign is meant to remind motorists of the important of following proper bus safety protocols.
The joint local safety committee, which works collaboratively on several different transportation projects, received a grant through Alberta Transportation to offset the costs of the campaign.
The have created public announcements and have designed magnetic decals for use on company vehicles throughout the area.
“It’s a simple message, but it is vitally important,” said Kelli Pickett, safety and training coordinator with Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools. “The school divisions involved in this campaign transport over 55,000 everyday.
“Drivers are taking the safety of our students into their hands and it’s paramount that the general public knows how to respond when they’re driving near a school bus.”
Certain communities within the participating divisions have bylaws that prohibit school buses from using red flashing lights and motorists need to be extra-vigilant when driving safely near a stopped school bus, officials say.
In all cases, driving slowly and with caution near school buses will help ensure the safety of students throughout the region.
The two-week, ‘Stop on Red, Kids Ahead’ campaign launched Aug. 27th and will run again during School Bus Safety Week in October.
“We have also connected with the RCMP to conduct safety stops during Bus Safety Week, when they will continue to distribute this information to drivers,” said Scott Hucal, general manager of Prairie Bus Lines Ltd.
“The entire awareness campaign will help ensure this school bus safety message has a strong presence in all our communities as the new year begins.”