New school year begins

By SHELLEY TERMUENDE, Connect Weekly

School buses sit parked in the vehicle yard at Sparksman Transportation Ltd. on Sunday evening.  Students of the Catholic and Public School Districts are back in classrooms on Monday, August 31, 2015.

School buses sit parked in the vehicle yard at Sparksman Transportation Ltd. on Sunday evening. Students of the Catholic and Public School Districts are back in classrooms on Monday, August 31, 2015. PHOTO: Dawn Booth, Connect Weekly.

Fort McMurray Public and Catholic School doors will open officially to students on August 31, 2015. In preparation for the upcoming year, both school districts have been working behind the scenes to provide students with a smooth transition next week.

“We’re excited to get another school year going,” Fort McMurray Catholic School District superintendent George McGuigan said. “Right now, it’s basically a continuation of current programs. (We’re) very strong in our elementary schools for early learning. Our community is averaging 1,200 births or so a year – for the last seven-eight years now – so getting a good start to learning for our young babies is critical to us.”

Plenty of capital expansion, as well as, significant renovations are underway for both districts. Thanks to federal government grants, two new elementary schools – one faith based and one public based – in the new Parsons Creek development are in the building phases with an approximate opening date in 2017. The Fort McMurray Public School District’s Composite High is currently in the midst of renovations to meet the needs of attending students.

As the local economy changes around Fort McMurray, both districts have made efforts to strategically expand in order to offer a better experience to parents and students across the city’s 26 schools. Following the trend of increased residential growth, both school systems are assuring improved levels of service with the hopes of hiring new teaching staff depending on confirmed student totals next week.

“With growth projected in the long term for Fort McMurray, we’re going to be very well positioned to be ready for students,” said Fort McMurray Public School District superintendent Doug Nicholls.

“With growth projected in the long term for Fort McMurray, we’re going to be very well positioned to be ready for students,” said Fort McMurray Public School District superintendent Doug Nicholls. “It’s going to be a very strong period of growth for enrolment with the belief that the local economy will settle down and things will get back to a more normal trend.” However even with capital upgrades, both districts remain cautiously optimistic regarding enrollment.

Dana Cole, Grade 3 teacher at St. Anne Elementary School, got a head start on school preparation on August 24, 2015.

Dana Cole, Grade 3 teacher at St. Anne Elementary School, got a head start on school preparation on August 24, 2015.

Inside the doors, plenty of advancements across schools’ extra-curricular offerings will provide a comprehensive education plan to interested families, while specialized program offerings, such as the Fort McMurray Public School District’s First Nations, Métis and Inuit Education program, continue to attract and enrich student’s learning. The Catholic School District will continue to offer a long line of sports academies at all levels of the educational system, with an emphasis on the academies at Father Mercredi High School.

For the Fort McMurray Public School District, the 2015-16 year will bring about the start of their Passion Excellent Attitude Knowledge (PEAK) program. With the program reaching out to students from Grades 3 through 12, instilling the combination of academic and athletic success is a win-win.
Arts and sciences programs will also be featured prominently – inside and outside of the classroom – from the Suncor Centre for the Performing Arts to the wide array of languages offered by both districts. “Everything from Mandarin through to Spanish, of course we have French and immersion, that again will be exciting growth for us,” Nicholls added.

Focusing on Fort McMurray’s multi-cultural background, McGuigan said the region’s diverse population was a benefit to both school systems.

“We have people from all over the world in our schools…Recognizing on a daily basis that inclusivity of our schools and the people where they come from and their cultures and celebrating those is just a common occurrence.”

From the field, to the stage, and most importantly, the classroom, Fort McMurray’s school districts are more than capable of bringing the world of education to the doorstep of this region’s youth.

For more information on enrollment and back to school information for both parents and students, please visit each district’s websites at fmcschools.ca and www.fmpsdschools.ca.

– Connect Weekly –