Stella Maris School

Stella Maris’ Grade 8’s clean up yard as legacy project

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The Grade 8 students from the 2016-17 school year at Stella Maris School may now be gone, but they’ve left something for future students to remember them by.

The classes taught by Jenna Cole and Mike Mathieson completed a garden restoration project in front of the Girard St. school featuring trimmed hedges, the removal of dead plant materials, the placement of ground cover, edging and decorative stones and the display of memorial stones dedicated to teachers and principals that passed away.

“It took them two-and-a-half days,” explained principal Sophie DiPaolo.

Not only did the students perform physical labour, they also used their minds as they did the math to figure out how much ground materials they would need.

“Then they got to work,” said DiPaolo.

The Grade 8 classes at Stella Maris School completed a legacy project at the school by cleaning up the front gardens.

The Grade 8 classes at Stella Maris School completed a legacy project at the school by cleaning up the front gardens.

DiPaolo also pointed out there was involvement from the community as well.

“All the materials used in our landscaping clean up were generously donated to the school by Gyori Farms and Landscaping.  They provided the ground cover, edging and decorative stones for our project,” she said.

The memorial stones are dedicated to a former Stella Maris principal as well as another teacher, with the third stone having been brought over from St. Bernard School.

DiPaolo added it is still a bit of a “work in progress” and a bench and other components may be added. She praised the outgoing Grade 8’s, saying it’s a legacy project for them.

“It’s the first graduating class of two schools coming together,” she said, adding they were also recently designated as an eco-school.

The students were also happy with their work.

Memorial stones from both Stella Maris and St. Bernard School are part of the refurbished gardens at Stella Maris School.

Memorial stones from both Stella Maris and St. Bernard School are part of the refurbished gardens at Stella Maris School.

Nolan Crain said their front yard didn’t look that appealing, but after putting down some stones and cleaning up the plant material, it improved the school’s look.

“It looks better,” said Crain.

Owen Kempster said he was happy with how the project turned out.

“It looks good,” he said. “It makes our school look better from the outside.”

“I think we did a good job,” added Brianne Palenkas. “We worked as a team. It turned out really well.”

Stella Maris unveils buddy benches

 

By Jolene Perron

 

A bench, which was dedicated to Michelle Fischer, was brought to Stella Maris last week and was joined by new buddy bench.

In the spring of 2013, after the passing of a beloved teacher and friend at St. Bernard School, staff and students wanted to honor her memory with a special bench. Amy Williams, Fisher’s sister and current teacher at Stella Maris said without knowing what a buddy bench was yet, they simply wanted to honor her memory and represent her theory of inclusion.

Michelle Fischer’s bench was joined by a second buddy bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which illustrates Principal Sophia DiPaolo’s motto for the 2016-17 year after they amalgamated with St. Bernard’s.

Michelle Fischer’s bench was joined by a second buddy bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which illustrates Principal Sophia DiPaolo’s motto for the 2016-17 year after they amalgamated with St. Bernard’s.

“We had a nice celebration there, and then when St. Bernard’s closed and they came over the Stella Maris, we were of course hoping the bench would come and it finally came so we are so happy,” said Williams. “As a family we’re completely humbled and just really honored that her legacy is going to live on. She was a very strong woman. She truly fought a really hard fight, she worked through chemo, she never felt sorry for herself. She was someone who just went about her day and got the job done and the fact that they want to honor that to us, there really is no greater honor as a family.”
Fischer’s bench is joined by a second bench, donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, which is personalized for the school saying “I am smart, I am strong, I can do anything, I am a Stingray,” which principal Sophia DiPaolo said symbolizes no matter who you are, no matter how good you are at something or perhaps not as good as someone else, it’s ok. She said this is something that we have been saying all year long and the kids really took to it.

Michelle Fischer’s Bench was brought to Stella Maris where her colleagues and sister currently work, in order to continue her legacy and honor her memory.

Michelle Fischer’s Bench was brought to Stella Maris where her colleagues and sister currently work, in order to continue her legacy and honor her memory.

“Our two school communities came together so beautifully this year and what a fantastic way to end it, by having this dedication ceremony,” said DiPaolo. “I think it just kind of solidifies the positivity, as sad as it was that St. Bernard’s closed down, it’s turned out to be a very positive thing in that the two communities came together so well and that’s really a tribute to parents, staff, and kids because if they didn’t make it work, it wouldn’t have worked. Mrs. Fischer was a very loved educational assistant at St. Bernard’s school … When our two school communities came together, and because she was such an integral part of that school community it was only right that we bring that bench in her honor to our school community.”

Students performed lyrical dances to songs with friendship themes during their dedication ceremony June 19.

Students performed lyrical dances to songs with friendship themes during their dedication ceremony June 19.

The second bench, which was donated by Windsor Chapel Funeral Home, is part of a tour Margaret Slack is taking around Windsor and Essex County. She is Windsor Chapel Funeral Home’s community education specialist, and she, along with her daughter Abbey Neves, have been sharing a very personal story on their 2017-18 Road Less Traveled Imagine Tour.

“Abbey was bullied and we decided that we wanted to take her message on the road and try and create communities within our area that focus on inclusiveness, empathy and compassion, both inside the school and outside,” said Slack. “We had come across this idea of a buddy bench and I asked Windsor Chapel Funeral Home if they would support providing buddy benches to the schools we visit on tour and they said yes. In the dedication ceremony today, they really came together as a school community to use the message of faith to bring their community together so that they can become champions.”

So far, they have visited 20 schools, and already have seven more set up to visit in the fall.

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.

Stella Maris School students, staff enjoying newly expanded building

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Staff and students are enjoying their newly expanded building at Stella Maris School.

The new addition opened last month and features four new classrooms, expanded classrooms in other parts of the building and three new storage areas. One of the new storage areas allows for better storage of musical instruments.

A senior class at Stella Maris School work in their new classroom (above) while the electric guitars are stored in the new music instrument storage room. The expansion was completed late last month.

A senior class at Stella Maris School work in their new classroom. The expansion was completed late last month.

The construction at the Catholic elementary school also included a new bus bay and parking lot that were completed earlier this year, with the latter including a “Kiss & Ride” lane to allow parents a safer option when dropping their children off.

The entire renovation was $1.5 million.

Principal Sophie DiPaolo said the new classrooms are going over well. She said it has been a different school year so far as they have had to mesh two schools together as well as deal with construction in the aftermath of the closure of St. Bernard School and the transfer of most of those students to Stella Maris.

The hallway in the new section of Stella Maris School.

The hallway in the new section of Stella Maris School.

“Staff, students and families have been supportive. It’s been great,” said DiPaolo. “It’s been a true team effort.”

There are still a few things left to be done but those odds and ends don’t impact the learning the students are doing daily. Three senior classes no longer have to be housed in the school’s gymnasium though DiPaolo said the teachers collaborated well during the time their classes were in the gym.

“The kids deserve credit for that too,” said DiPaolo. “We have an amazing group of kids.”

The construction period wasn’t always easy, she noted, but all parties involved helped smooth the transition.

“Everyone made it work,” said DiPaolo. “It hasn’t been easy but it’s been good.”

Electric guitars are stored in the new music instrument storage room.

Electric guitars are stored in the new music instrument storage room.

Stella Maris received support from board officials, their trustee, the superintendent and others to ensure things went smoothly “because the kids come first.”

Jenna Cole, a Grade 8 teacher at Stella Maris, said the new classrooms allow the students to have their own space and improves their concentration. She said the students were “fabulous” during the transition period but the new classrooms allow the students to better do their own activities.

Town, WECDSB “iron out” traffic study issues, Stella Maris construction soon to begin

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Construction on a four-classroom addition at Stella Maris School could start as soon as early next week after issues relating to the traffic study were “ironed out.”

Stephen Fields, communication co-ordinator with the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, said the board is pleased to have satisfied the needs of what the town was looking for and said construction could start as soon as Monday.

“The goal is to have the bus bay and parking lot done by the start of school,” said Fields, noting that is weather permitting.

The four-classroom addition should be done by October or November, he added. While there will be students housed temporarily in the gymnasium during construction, Fields said Stella Maris has a good principal in Sophie DiPaolo and that the board is confident she will do everything possible to ensure the comfort of the students and staff.

“I’m sure she’ll work with staff and students to make sure they are accommodated properly,” said Fields. “There’s going to be creative solutions so the students get their daily physical activity and to ensure they get all their academic requirements met.”

Once the addition is complete, “we will have a really great school for the community,” said Fields. He hopes parents and students will be patient as the consolidation of Stella Maris and St. Bernard School comes together.

Stella Maris School

Stella Maris School

Town council delayed approval of the site plan last Monday and designated authority to execute the site plan to CAO John Miceli and director of planning, development and legislative Mark Galvin. The town’s concerns centered around busing and the “assumption that 100 per cent of the St. Bernard students will ride the bus, representing full compliance.” That concern was relayed as part of an administrative report to town council which added that current Stella Maris compliance was 60 per cent. Administration also wanted further validation of the number of buses that would be needed to accommodate all students.

Miceli confirmed that the town was in receipt of additional information from the board and the board’s consultants with Galvin indicating mid-week that the situation was “close to being ironed out.” Galvin said the town had to look over the information but believed the situation was soon to be remedied.

“I don’t expect it’s going to take more than a few days,” he said. “We’ve been working very closely together (with the board). We’re working very hard to get it finished.”