Mark Campbell

Gas leak forces one-day evacuation of Amherstburg Public School



By Ron Giofu


The presence of a natural gas smell forced the evacuation of a local elementary school last week with the situation being resolved without injury.

Amherstburg Public School students and staff were cleared out of the building last Thursday after a natural gas smell was detected in a science classroom.

“There was a gas valve that somehow got turned on in the science room,” explained principal Mark Campbell.

The gas line emanated from the roof and fed into the science room and the valve on the roof was the actual cause of the smell.

“Somehow, it got turned on,” Campbell stated.

Amherstburg police and fire attended the scene as did Union Gas. The gas line was capped so that it could not happen again, said Campbell.

Amherstburg Public School principal Mark Campbell gets an update from a Union Gas worker following the evacuation last Thursday. No one was injured and all staff and students were transported to General Amherst High School.

Campbell noted that emergency officials were also called to the school the previous night for the smell of natural gas but the school was given the all clear. The next morning around 8 a.m., a teacher noted the gas smell again and the school was evacuated. Classes had not yet begun, Campbell noted.

Students were transported to General Amherst High School where they congregated in the gymnasiums. High school students were helping to direct people where they needed to go as parents and guardians picked up many of the children. Others who couldn’t be picked up right away were entertained with movies and pizza.

Superintendent of education Lynn McLaughlin praised Campbell’s handling of the situation with both of them thanking General Amherst High School for their assistance in accommodating the students.

“Mr. Campbell did exactly what he needed to do,” said McLaughlin.

Students and parents were able to pick up belongings at the school later in the day Thursday and classes resumed Friday.


Amherstburg Public School receives $70,000 literacy grant from Indigo



By Ron Giofu


Amherstburg Public School is looking to update its library and has received a giant boost from a national book-selling chain.

Amherstburg Public School received a $70,000 literacy grant from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, with the local elementary school being one of 30 schools nationwide to get funding under the program.

Principal Mark Campbell said Amherstburg Public School is “incredibly honored and grateful to have been selected” and added “this support could not have come at a better time.”

Campbell told the RTT Friday morning that the school applied earlier this year.

“Our library is in desperate need of an upgrade,” said Campbell.

Campbell said the school has limited resources but needs to upgrade the library due to the age of the books, the number of books they have and the fact the school now has a French Immersion program.

Amherstburg Public School received a $70,000 grant from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. From left: Nya Meloche, Kendra Lowe, Austin Sumner, principal Mark Campbell.

Amherstburg Public School received a $70,000 grant from the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation. From left: Nya Meloche, Kendra Lowe, Austin Sumner, principal Mark Campbell.

“Having just started our French Immersion program this school year, we want to ensure that our students have access to appropriate French materials and books that will support their learning,” said Campbell.

The school learned just over a week ago they would be getting the grant, with Campbell stating they had a positive 10-15 minute interview as part of the process.

The hope, Campbell added, is that students will not only be able to learn and obtain new books, but that the library will become “the hub of the school.” He pointed out the grant is spread over three years with equal installments paid over the three years totaling $70,000. The money can be used on anything Indigo/Chapters sells, including technology, with Campbell stating he will be asking if they can use some of the funds on furniture for the library as well.

Some funds may be used towards technology or books in classrooms, but Campbell said the bulk of the money will be used to upgrade the library.

Amherstburg Public School is affiliated with the Indigo store in Lakeshore. The school has a “wish wall” where students are putting titles they would like to see with Campbell adding a committee is being put together with the aim of making their first purchases soon.

“We want to make our first purchase at Indigo by the end of the year,” he said.

According to a press release sent out by the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation, Amherstburg Public School currently has 436 students who regularly use the library.

“The average age of the books in the library is 16-years-old,” said Campbell. “It’s not the oldest in the board but it’s old.”

The library is used now and also serves as a place where students can congregate during recess.

“The more things I have in there, the better it is and the more occupied they are,” said Campbell.

Campbell credited the staff and students for their involvement with the grant application, saying staff showed a real team effort to get the grant application in.

The Indigo Love of Reading Foundation commits $1.5 million annually to “high-needs elementary schools across Canada in an effort to bolster literacy and give all children equal access to books.”

To date, the foundation has committed over $19.5 million dollars to over 245 high-needs elementary schools since 2004 through its literacy fund grant, and an additional $5.5 million through its other programs.

“Over the past 13 years, we have seen the positive impact of these grants in communities across Canada. They have been hugely beneficial in cultivating literacy skills and a lifelong love of reading in kids from coast-to-coast,” said Heather Reisman, chair of the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation in a press release.

Local schools open their doors for prospective JK students



By Ron Giofu


Local elementary schools opened their doors recently to welcome prospective new students.

Open houses were held to showcase the schools and what they have to offer. For Amherstburg Public School, they are now accepting registration for the second year of its French Immersion program. Principal Mark Campbell said there has been a lot of interest again in the French Immersion program, but a lot of interest for the traditional English-stream as well.

Joshua Sutton pedals a tricycle around the gymnasium at Stella Maris School during the Catholic elementary school’s recent open house.

Joshua Sutton pedals a tricycle around the gymnasium at Stella Maris School during the Catholic elementary school’s recent open house.

The first year of the French Immersion program at Amherstburg Public School has gone well, he stated, with 21 students currently enrolled.

“We’re happy with where we’re at,” said Campbell. “We’re hopeful to have 20-25 kids in the program next year.”

Campbell estimated that roughly 15 families expressed interest in French Immersion during the open house. He said another 20-25 students would help keep the program sustainable. Eventually, the plan would see French Immersion run from JK-Grade 8 in addition to the English stream.

Students who choose to take French Immersion could write a French proficiency test once they arrive at high school, Campbell added.

Chloe Maziak tries her hand at some of the musical instruments at Amherstburg Public School’s recent open house.

Chloe Maziak tries her hand at some of the musical instruments at Amherstburg Public School’s recent open house.

“It opens a door for them if they follow through with it,” said Campbell.

There was interest split between the English and French Immersion streams, he said.

“It’s (the families’) choice and they can register for whichever they prefer,” said Campbell.

“Both are fantastic programs,” added vice principal Christina Pottie.

Stella Maris School also welcomed possible new students and principal Sophie DiPaolo reported it was a good turnout there as well.

“We’ve had a lot of people come in and take packages,” said DiPaolo.

Now that students from the former St. Bernard School have integrated into Stella Maris, DiPaolo believes it led to a higher turnout.

Journey Laframboise creates some artwork during the recent JK open house at Amherstburg Public School.

Journey Laframboise creates some artwork during the recent JK open house at Amherstburg Public School.

“I would say it’s up from previous years,” she said.

DiPaolo said she loves seeing the children excited to come to school in the fall and said they enjoyed the activities and tour of the school, which is an indication they are doing something right.

“They liked being here and they liked the interactive activities,” said DiPaolo.

French Immersion coming to Amherstburg Public School


(CLARIFICATION: Amherstburg Public School will still be offering English JK/SK next year as French Immersion will be offered as an option. The school will be presenting French Immersion as part of a dual-track option.)

By Ron Giofu


Parents of students within the Greater Essex County District School Board who want to enroll their children in French Immersion will now be able to do so in Amherstburg.

Amherstburg Public School will begin offering French Immersion this fall with JK and SK students being the first recipients of the program. Principal Mark Campbell said the program will likely grow incrementally but will only be offered at first to the two kindergarten levels.

The development of French Immersion at Amherstburg Public School will allow students that would normally go to Anderdon Public School or Malden Central Public School to go to Amherstburg Public for the program. The fact the program is coming to Amherstburg will also allow public school families to stay closer to home. The closest option currently for French Immersion within the public board is Sandwich West Public School, said Campbell.

“It will be a transition,” said Campbell. “It will be interesting to see how many people come here or go to the French Catholic school down the road (École St.-Jean Baptiste).”


According to information provided by the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB), French Immersion students learn the same curriculum as those students enrolled in the English stream with only the language of instruction being different. Parents do not have to speak French, with Campbell noting report cards will be sent home in English.

The GECDSB touts benefits of the French Immersion program to be the increasing of first language skills, problem solving, respect and understanding of other cultures, the understanding of oneself and others, appreciation of the value of languages and its functions, the ability to understand and communicate in French and the increasing of opportunities for the future.

Campbell pointed out his own children are enrolled in French Immersion in Kingsville and he believes it will open up opportunities down the road for them.

“We’re a bilingual country,” he said. “It opens up opportunities in high school, university and beyond if they already have a second language acquired.”

SK and JK instruction will be entirely in French. Should the program expand locally, the French Immersion program calls for 80 per cent French instruction for Grades 2-5, and 50 per cent in Grades 6-8.

“We’re trying to get information out there,” said Campbell. He believes offering French Immersion could increase enrolment at the school and could possibly attract students from other boards as well as those who attend Anderdon or Malden.

“It’s not a competition,” he added. “We’re just offering a new program that just happens to be at Amherstburg Public School.”

Campbell believes it is an exciting time for Amherstburg Public School, but noted some teachers have some concerns.

“It’s a learning curve for everyone and we’ll see what it looks like,” said Campbell. “I think the benefits outweigh any costs that may be involved. It offers more opportunities for our school.”

For further information, contact the school at 519-736-2189 or the public board’s teacher consultant Angeline Humber at 519-255-3200 ext. 10218.

Early registration at Amherstburg Public School runs Feb. 16-26 with the JK open house being Feb. 17. Campbell indicated the teacher consultant will be at the open house and they will be able to answer questions, with Campbell adding he was a vice principal at a French Immersion school in the past.