École Notre Dame High School (ENDHS) celebrated it’s grand opening following the completion of the modernization project on Friday, December 8th, with the Education Minister, the Honourable, David Eggen. The school opened to dignitaries, board members, and the community Friday mid-morning to rave reviews.
Principal Chantel Axani-Rawlake welcomed Minister Eggen with a grand tour of the facility, while explaining the dramatic changes that came, thanks to the modernization project. Most notably the front entrance. Formerly a small space, with no sight lines for school administration or staff, the entrance now features 50 foot ceilings with lots of light and sight. Office administration and faculty have been moved from a cramped upper level space, to an open and inviting large office space off the front entrance. “It was really important for us to have the office here, so there is someone to meet the students and our guests as they arrive,” explained Principal Axani-Rawlake.
“It’s very impressive, I like the open concept. It creates a very welcoming design that helps kids to feel confidence and pride in the place they are working in,” Minister Eggen says right away he was impressed with the school’s design, “the campus idea [of the commons area] adds to it the dignity of the school. It’s a grown up place to do grown up work and pursue college.”
Accompaning the Minister on the tour was Mayor Gene Sobolewski, Reeve Greg Sawchuk, Town Councillors Elisa Brosseau, Chad Colbourne and Lorna Storoschuk; as well as Kehewin Councillor Benjamin Badger. Lakeland Catholic School Board (LCSB) members also attended. The tour began at the north end of the school, with the new library and computer commons, where students were working on CTS classes. The music room had been transformed from a small closet like space, into a bright open room with sound proofing. Next to the new music room is a small chapel.
The hallways down the south side of the school have all been expanded to accommodate a larger student body and any students with disabilities. Each room has been upgraded and includes smart boards and the latest technology to assist students and teachers with learning. Some of the favourite stops on the tour included; a cosmetology lab, complete with hair mannequins and a real hair salon stylist as the instructor. A Biology class as they were dissecting a pig’s heart, the new media room where students learn about film making and photography. Students even produce a live school orientated news show every other morning (how very Lakeland Connect of them!) and the shop lab, where students make shed that they sell to the public, making the class self-sustaining.
“Essentially, this is like a new school. It’s not just a renovation, it’s not just a coat of paint. I went through every class room and everyone should be proud [of the modernization] project. It’s part of our commitment to making life better for Albertans,” the minister says he was delighted to see all the kids happily working during the tour. “There’s a really good vibe in this school, you can tell the kids were genuinely interested in what they were learning and in showcasing the school,” Minister Eggen says he found the kids very polite and kind.
Minister Eggen was intrigued by the relationships LCSD has with post-secondary institutes, such as Portage College, “it offers a chance for kids, who maybe wouldn’t think of going to college, to get their foot in the door. They can get some college credits, while going to school here.” He also noted the school was very inclusive, “it looks like they are really focused on getting kids of all degrees of abilities in the classrooms. I believe that’s a sign of respect and a lesson for all the students to make sure they all take after each other.”
The living wall off the main entrance, in the commons area, leading into the gym was the show-stopper. The wall made of many different types of plants, grows out the wall, in the design of the earth. One would never guess the commons area was once the gymnasium. It is now a space for students to meet & eat, with a cafeteria (something the school was lacking before the modernization). The old stage is used as a temporary class room for various classes and activities.
The new gymnasium was one of the biggest delights for the school. “We are now able to host other schools for sports and tournaments,” explains Principal Anaxi-Rawlake, “everything is hours of thought and collaboration. Planning and consideration. Learning the needs of the 21st century student driving the modernization process.” Principal Anaxi-Rawlake ensured to thank her predecessor, Pamela Guilbault for initiating the process and all her hardwork and dedication. Guilbault was promoted last year to Assistant Superintendent for LCSD and was in attendance for the ceremony.