Western Secondary School

Western Secondary School observes Remembrance Day

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Schools across Windsor-Essex County observed Remembrance Day last Friday and that included Western Secondary School.

Cadets from the Essex & Kent Scottish Regiment march in the gymnasium during a Remembrance Day service last Friday at Western Secondary School.

With Remembrance Day falling on Saturday this year, schools held ceremonies a day early with Western Secondary students assembling in the gymnasium. Two minutes of silence were observed for fallen veterans with wreath laying, inspirational songs and cadets from the Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment also helping to mark the occasion.

Brandi Plantus, who teaches Grade 10 Canadian history at Western, said the school puts on a Remembrance Day assembly annually. She added that her Grade 10 class helped organize the assembly.

“I was really pleased with the participation today and the silence given throughout the ceremony,” said Plantus. “The students seemed to be really respectful and interested in learning about Remembrance Day.”

Western Secondary School students Nickolaus Danckaert and Robert Bennett lay a wreath.

Plantus said her Grade 10 Canadian History students just studied World War I so they were able to relate to the topics that were studying.

“They’ve really taken a liking to wanting to participate on this day,” Plantus said of her students.

Plantus thanked the cadets and others who also assisted in planning the ceremony at Western Secondary School.

Western Secondary’s annual “Pumpkinfest” draws big crowds

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

An annual tradition at Western Secondary School resumed last weekend with hundreds passing through the school’s hallways to support it.

“Pumpkinfest” was held Saturday and Sunday with people from around the Windsor-Essex County area converging on the local high school to purchase from the wide variety of craft and food vendors.

Western Secondary School students not only welcomed people to Pumpkinfest, they also collected goods for the school’s can drive. Front row (from left) Bryanna Fahringer and Myron Bennett. Back row (from left): Anthony Quiring, Trenton Breault and Duncan Phelps.

“We’re full this year,” said Sam Thomas, one of the Western Secondary teachers that helped organize the weekend event. “We have our regulars and we have some new ones this year.”
Some of the vendors also included Western students themselves, as a number of crafts and goodies made by the students were on sale.

“Everything’s great,” Thomas reported. “Everyone is happy.”

The gymnasium (shown here) and the hallways at Western Secondary School were packed with crafters and craft lovers as part of the Oct. 28-29 Pumpkinfest at Western Secondary School.

Over 100 students, or roughly one-quarter of the school’s population, helped volunteer. They joined staff members, former staff members and Western graduates in helping out.

“It makes it so nice,” said Thomas. “I don’t think there’s many places that happens.”

With so many former staff and students coming by the school for Pumpkinfest, Thomas joked that “I get lots of hugs this weekend.”

Western Secondary School students had their own crafts and artwork for sale as part of the Oct. 28-29 “Pumpkinfest.” The event is a fundraiser for the high school.

Money raised goes back into the school with Thomas stating that it helps pay for field trips, events and special guests. She added that she starts work on Pumpkinfest in May with bookings being accepted starting every June.

Janet Arnold shows one of the knitted items she had for at Pumpkinfest.

The students also enjoyed the event. Many were gathered by the main entrance collecting for the school’s can drive with student Anthony Quiring saying that the event allows them to represent their school to visitors.

“It’s awesome,” said Quiring. “I’m happy. We worked really hard.”

Feedback was positive, the students agreed.

“We’ve heard really good things,” said Quiring. “(The public) likes it here and we’re doing a good job.”

Josh Fex and Jaclyn Hertel look at some of the items for sale at Pumpkinfest.

Janet Arnold was one of the 110 vendors on site and was selling various knitted goods.

“I’ve been coming here for quite a few years now,” said Arnold. “I’ve got quite a few people who come back each year.”

New school year officially underway

 

 

By Jolene Perron

 

Buses, enrollment and education, oh my!

The 2017-18 school year has officially kicked off, and both of the school boards as well as Sharp Bus Lines are gearing up for what they plan to be another fantastic year.
“We’ve seen a lot of growth in French Immersion, especially at St. Joseph in River Canard, as well as in our International Baccalaureate programs (at Assumption and Cardinal Carter) and academy programs,” explained Stephen Fields, communications coordinator for the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. “In fact, we now have 457 students in our sports academies. The really nice thing about the growth in French Immersion at St. Joseph is that, as we add new grades for those students as they advance, they will be able to go directly into the Villanova French Immersion program after completing elementary school, which will help solidify the high school’s French program.”

 

 

Fields went on to say they have done some hiring in the elementary and secondary panels, as well as make additions to their occasional teachers list. Last spring they also announced the creation of a new construction academy at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Windsor, which will see 20 new students starting there in September. The goal is to help address a skills gap in local trades. Additionally, they are launching a new STREAM – Science, Technology, Religion, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics- Academy at Holy Names. They currently have about 65 students registered.

“At Villanova, we continue to build on the strengths of our very successful robotics team, which performed admirably in both national and international competitions last year,” said Fields. “We received some new funding to create an Apple Mac lab there, which really enhances our existing computer tech courses, where students are doing coding and building apps within the context of those courses. This will really provide a great foundation for these students as they move into post secondary education and eventually, related careers. This is also connected to the coding programs that are being integrated into our elementary curriculum at St. Joseph and Stella Maris.”

In the public school board, public relations officer Scott Scantlebury said after years of declining enrolment, they have finally stabilized, particularly at the secondary level. There has been some hiring of teachers over the past couple years, however, Scantlebury said they will have a better idea what their needs are for this year once they see enrolment numbers. As for major development, Scantlebury noted their new cloud-based learning program – Edsby.

“After piloting the system at a number of schools, this year parents at all schools in the Board will be able to sign up and have real-time communication with teachers and track their student’s academic achievement, attendance, etc.,” said Scantlebury. “It’s a great tool for parent engagement and involvement. As well we have expanded the access to the elementary literacy programs Lexia and Empower…we’ve seen, where it’s been used, positive impacts on kids’ reading levels, especially with students who were struggling with literacy. We also have changed the way we deliver English as a Second Language in elementary schools. Students will now receive the program at their home schools rather than at a central site, before graduating to their home school.”

 

Grade 9 orientation at General Amherst High School featured fun activities.

As for the location of the new school, Scantlebury said they have not finalized their plans. Their original projections, which he said they have discussed at the funding announcement for the opening, are still the same. Once the board has a site, a design and approval from the Ministry of Education, the construction will be tendered, which Scantlebury said takes about 14-16 months to build a school once work begins.

Not only are the school boards gearing up for the school year, but Sharp Bus Lines has been preparing as well and is asking a few things from students, parents and motorists.

“Students should arrive at their bus stops 10 minutes prior to pick up time,” said Crystal Williamson, regional manager for Sharp Bus Lines. “Wait at your designated stop in a safe spot, standing back from the curb or roadside yet visible to your bus driver, always remember to stay away from the danger zones outside of the bus, if required to cross watch for your driver to signal it’s safe to do so not before this and the crossing gate extended as well as the overheads and stop arm activated.”

Williamson said they are also asking motorists to keep in mind that school is back in session and asks them to slow down and be very cautious when approaching stopped school buses because “a child who may be running late for their stop could appear out of nowhere and cross the street.”

Over the summer, Williamson they have been preparing by taking all of the buses into the shop for the mechanics to go through, making sure the fleet of buses are safe for the students. The routes are checked for directional errors and timing, to ensure everyone arrives safely and in a timely fashion. Additionally, drivers come in to cover off refreshers and go over new routes.

“We love kids,” said Williamson. “Patience and kindness are the major things that we look for in our drivers.  Children have bad days just like adults so sometimes we need to cut them some slack.  We have hired/trained 8 new drivers over the summer and we are always looking for those special individuals to fill the seat.  As we always tell our drivers – they may be the first smile a child sees in the morning.  Make their day.”

So whether you’re a new or returning student, a parent, or even a fellow motorist, school is back in session and both the school boards, as well as Sharp Bus Lines hope everyone has a safe and happy 2017-18 school year.

Western Secondary School honours the Class of 2017

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Western Secondary School students, parents, families and staff had a chance to celebrate last Wednesday night.

Western held its graduation ceremony at the school where the 51 graduates were awarded their high school diplomas and other awards they earned during this year and the past four years.

Brent Webster, a teacher at the school and master of ceremonies for the evening, said it may be the end of the formal educational process for some, but that doesn’t mean they stop being educated.

“Today doesn’t mean you stop learning,” Webster told the graduates last Wednesday evening. “You will learn in new and exciting ways.”

Western Secondary School honours the Class of 2017.

Western Secondary School honours the Class of 2017.

Lynn McLaughlin, a superintendent with the Greater Essex County District School Board, said she believed the graduates were ready for the next phase of their lives.

“I know you are, you know you are,” she said.

McLaughlin expressed pride in the graduates, noting they have evolved over their four years at Western.

“I’m so proud of who you have become,” McLaughlin told the class of 2017.

Principal Melissa DeBruyne also expressed pride, stating she was proud to be the principal at Western Secondary School for the last four years and watch the students grow into adults.

“Embrace your next journey,” DeBruyne told the graduates. “Your future is what you make of it.”

DeBruyne, who takes over as principal at General Amherst High School in the fall, told the Western graduates that they will always have a team to rely on regardless of where they go in life.

Principal Melissa DeBruyne speaks to the graduates and their families at Western Secondary School's graduation June 28.

Principal Melissa DeBruyne speaks to the graduates and their families at Western Secondary School’s graduation June 28.

“It takes teamwork to survive every day. A team will always be there to help you,” said DeBruyne.

Valedictorian Noah Schaafsma said “high school is where you find yourself. It’s where you decide what kind of student you want to be.”

Schaafsma expressed pride in the time he spent as a student at Western Secondary School.

“Western left us with some of the best memories we have in life,” he told his fellow graduates. “Though sadness comes with leaving, new hope comes with our future.”

The graduates file in at the start of the ceremony.

The graduates file in at the start of the ceremony.

Schaafsma added that Western has “an amazing staff” that told them to embrace life and who they are.

“Being a student at Western comes with a stigma but being a Warrior comes with pride,” he said, noting the school’s nickname.

Schaafsma also encouraged his fellow graduates to not be afraid of adventure as they go through their lives.

Public board approves space template for new high school

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The new public high school is one step closer.

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) approved the space template for the new school last week.

“The space template is designed to determine the number of square feet you need based on the programs you would like to offer,” explained Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Ron LeClair.

LeClair said now that the board has gone through the space template process, it will be sent to the province for approval.

According to the report that went before the public board, the new public high school would have 21 classrooms, five science laboratories, a music room, a graphics/visual arts room, three computer rooms, a triple gym, a culinary/hospitality room, cafeteria, library, weight room, and technical spaces for transportation technology, welding/manufacturing, communications technology, cosmetology and construction.

There would also be a special education room, but that would bring the projected total capacity to 828 students, up nine pupils from the approved 819 that the new school had been approved for. The administrative report noted that the board made an error and did not originally include a special education room in the business plan but the report added the room “will be designed with some flexibility to ensure that they can accommodate changes in the population.”

GECDSB logo

LeClair said they are hoping the template gets approved within the money given by the province.

The new dual campus school will have emphasis on technology and shops, something that many of the 218 respondents to the board’s recent survey emphasized as necessary to prepare students for the future. A total of 73 respondents said “trade options and programs” were requires with 38 stating technology.

“There is a significant technological footprint within the school, certainly much larger than the ones we’ve recently built,” said LeClair, adding there will be outside partners sought for other opportunities that won’t be provided at the school.

As for how the school will be built and whether or not the General Amherst and Western students will be blended or kept in different sections of the new building, that has not been determined. If the template is approved, an architect will be engaged and the board and administration will have to hammer out how the school will be utilized in terms of operating as a dual campus.

“That’s something that is a little bit down the road yet,” said LeClair.

It is “premature” to identify any possible location for the school, he added, noting they are moving forward but negotiations haven’t been finalized.

The public board has made consistent progress since the resolution on building a new, dual campus school was passed. The biggest hurdle, he believed, was getting the funding.

“We’ve got that and I’m very positive about the process moving forward in a timely manner,” said LeClair. “I’m confident the process is moving forward and we’ll have a very nice school to house both General Amherst and Western Secondary.”