Western Secondary School

Public school board seeking input into design of new high school

 

By Ron Giofu

A site has yet to be announced for the new public high school, but the Greater Essex County District School Board wants input on what the public wants the school to look like.

The public school board has posted a survey to its website (www.publicboard.ca) as well as the websites of General Amherst High School, Western Secondary School and all public elementary schools in Essex County asking for feedback on “the way they feel the school could prepare students for the future and how this new building can play a role in the community.”

Scott Scantlebury, public relations officer with the Greater Essex County District School Board, noted that all elementary schools in Essex County were included in the survey due to the fact that there are students who may consider the specialized IPRC learning program that is offered at Western Secondary School.

Scantlebury noted the survey is “generally about design” with questions designed to be open-ended. The first question centres on what the public believes is important in a school to prepare students for the future.

General Amherst High School

General Amherst High School

Scantlebury said that could include classroom spaces, technology, skilled trades opportunities and other amenities that could assist student learning.

“Those are the kinds of ideas we are looking for,” he said.

There is a “general site plan template,” Scantlebury noted, but the size of the school will also be determined by whatever site is chosen. The second question is regarding layout of the building, he stated.

“Since this is the consolidation of two school communities, there could be varying opinions of what the layout should look like,” said Scantlebury.

Whether Western students and General Amherst students would have their own specific parts of the building has not been decided yet, Scantlebury added, though public opinion through the survey could help figure that out. He noted size and budgetary considerations will also factor into that decision.

“Those things have yet to be determined,” he said.

The third question pertains to community partnerships and how the school could best serve the community.

Western Secondary School

Western Secondary School

Scantlebury indicated a decision on where the school will be located could come relatively soon.

“We are getting close,” he said of the site selection decision.

There is no timeline for a decision, he said, but the public board would like to move forward “as soon as possible.”

Potential sites have been narrowed down, Scantlebury noted. There has been talk of the school either being located at Centennial Park or as part of the Libro Centre property, but Scantlebury said he couldn’t speak on specific locations. Once a site is chosen, “it’s a matter of completing the negotiations.”

It will likely be several years before a new school is open to students.

“There are a number of steps,” said Scantlebury, noting the site plan template has to be approved by the board and province once that plan is finalized.

“Once we have acquired the land, the architects will take over the design phase,” he said.

The design phase can take anywhere from nine months to one year, he added, with the overall design also needing approval of the board of trustees and the province.

From there, the project would go to tender and the actual construction is likely to take 14-16 months.

Funding from the Ontario government for a new public high school in Amherstburg was announced Oct. 31, 2016. The Greater Essex County District School Board announced it received $23.8 million for a new public high school that will combine General Amherst High School and Western Secondary School. The new building will be able to accommodate 819 students.

The survey is open for submissions until June 9.

People with intellectual disabilities given “Night to Shine”

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Those with disabilities who may not have had their chance in the spotlight of a prom got their chance last Friday night.

The Gathering church out of Windsor hosted “A Night to Shine” at Western Secondary School with people ages 14 and up with intellectual disabilities or other special needs given a chance to go to a prom just for them. The event was one of 370 worldwide Friday night with it being sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

“We have a daughter with special needs ourselves,” explained Patty Leno, who led organizational efforts with husband Garth.

he Gathering church out of Windsor held “A Night to Shine” Friday night at Western Secondary School. Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, the event gave those with intellectual disabilities and other special needs a chance to have a prom experience. Harold Shreve was one of the attendees and walks the red carpet with “buddy” Jessica Piersall.

The Gathering church out of Windsor held “A Night to Shine” Friday night at Western Secondary School. Sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation, the event gave those with intellectual disabilities and other special needs a chance to have a prom experience. Harold Shreve was one of the attendees and walks the red carpet with “buddy” Jessica Piersall.

Leno explained that her husband, the pastor at the Gathering church, read an article about the Tim Tebow Foundation and the “A Night to Shine” events and started asking whether the church wanted to undertake it. They applied and were approved to hold the event.

“We are a first time (presenter of the event) and the only church in Canada that is hosting the event,” said Leno.

In addition to the “A Night to Shine” prom at Western, there were similar events held across the United States, Haiti and even some as far as Africa. The event is held on or near Valentine’s Day every year and designed to give people with special needs a chance to feel special and get the same opportunities as others.

“People with special needs need to know they are loved by their community, loved by God and loved by our church,” said Leno.

Some of the prom-goers and buddies at “A Night to Shine” at Western Secondary included Matthew Todd, Miles Buress, Sandy DiPasquale, Stephen MacLauclan, Chris Sholominsk, Randy Daigneau, Chantelle Bubnic, Jen Andrews.

Some of the prom-goers and buddies at “A Night to Shine” at Western Secondary included Matthew Todd, Miles Buress, Sandy DiPasquale, Stephen MacLauclan, Chris Sholominsk, Randy Daigneau, Chantelle Bubnic, Jen Andrews.

There were 380 people involved altogether, with roughly 82 of them having disabilities. It was held at Western Secondary School due to three teachers also being members of The Gathering church. Not only were some Western students participants in the event, but invitations also went out to those supported by various agencies and organizations around Windsor-Essex County.

Andrew Cyr performs karoke during “A Night to Shine.” The event is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation and was brought to Western Secondary School by The Gathering church out of Windsor.

Andrew Cyr performs karoke during “A Night to Shine.” The event is sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation and was brought to Western Secondary School by The Gathering church out of Windsor.

Leno pointed out numerous businesses stepped forward and volunteers as well as people from their church and other churches. There were limousine rides, photo booths, karaoke, a red carpet, live entertainment and the prom in the gym with dancing and food with much, if not all of it, done by volunteers. There were also people acting as “buddies” for the prom-goers and accompanying them down the red carpet and helping out with whatever they needed during the evening.

“We could never have done this without the volunteers who came together,” said Leno. “It takes an army of people to put this on and we couldn’t have done this without them.”

Those who had their “night to shine” did so with smiles on their faces.

Hailey Nickolson and Duncan Phelps attended "A Night to Shine" Feb. 10 at Western Secondary School. It was presented by The Gathering church and sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

Hailey Nickolson and Duncan Phelps attended “A Night to Shine” Feb. 10 at Western Secondary School. It was presented by The Gathering church and sponsored by the Tim Tebow Foundation.

“The food is good. I enjoyed the limo,” said Krysten Shuster.

“Tonight has been done well. It was my first time in a limo,” added Andrew Cyr. “It’s my first time being here.”

 

Kick-start

Funding for new public high school announced

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Funding for a new public high school has been announced but General Amherst and Western students will not be moving just yet.

The Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) announced it has received $23.8 million for a new public high school. The building will combine General Amherst High School and Western Secondary School, be able to accommodate 819 students, and is consistent with a motion put forth by Amherstburg/LaSalle trustee Ron LeClair at the final PARC meeting last October.

“We’re all very excited about today,” said Erin Kelly, director of education with the GECDSB. She also announced $9 million plus land acquisition costs for a new Prince Andrew Public School in LaSalle.

In addition to the $23.8 million, the board also disclosed the province will cover land costs to accommodate a new high school. Kelly noted this is “one of many steps in the process” before the new building opens its doors and welcomes students.

Greater Essex County District School Board director of education Erin Kelly announces funding for a consolidated General Amherst and Western high school as well as a new Prince Andrew Public School in LaSalle during a news conference Monday.

Greater Essex County District School Board director of education Erin Kelly announces funding for a consolidated General Amherst and Western high school as well as a new Prince Andrew Public School in LaSalle during a news conference Monday.

LeClair called it “a memorable day for the town of Amherstburg and the town of LaSalle” and noted the board has opened nine new schools since 2005, are currently building a new high school in Leamington and will open four more schools within three years.

“A new school is an exciting opportunity and can revitalize a community,” he said. “It can create a host of opportunities for everyone. Today is a wonderful day not just for the areas I represent but for the entire Greater Essex County District School Board.”

LeClair, who is also vice-chairperson of the GECDSB, thanked the Ministry of Education for the funding as the public board has one of the oldest inventories of buildings in the province.

“There is still a lot of work for us,” said LeClair.

There is no preferred site for the new high school, he said, and both the board and town are working towards finding a “suitable” site. The design phase will be a “critical element,” he added, with his motion having called for General Amherst and Western to function as individual and distinct schools.

“I’m very happy the motion in 2015 has taken one step closer,” he said. “It’s a very happy day and very happy day in Amherstburg. Amherstburg is on a roll.”

Todd Awender, superintendent of education for accommodations, outlined the work that needs to be done and estimated it will be at least three years before a new high school is ready to open.

“This is a wonderful announcement but we are not moving into the school tomorrow,” said Awender.

Awender said the board is “in talks” with both Amherstburg and LaSalle about sites for their respective schools. Once sites are selected, an architectural firm is selected and it heads into the design phase in which consultation will be done. It would then go tender, before finally being constructed.

“Be assured we are working very hard at this,” said Awender.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said “two or three” sites are being looked at in consultation with the board. Centennial Park and near the Libro Centre have both been mentioned in the past with DiCarlo stating minimum standards from the board are met at both.

Having a local high school “is absolutely essential” to attract new families to Amherstburg, he said. He added businesses have been spoken to in the vicinity of the current school but said “I think you have to look at the bigger picture” and that growth will allow the town to move out to a new school location, wherever that may be.

“Exciting is an understatement,” the mayor said of Monday’s announcement. “Communities are losing schools. Amherstburg just anchored two schools in one new facility. It will continue to keep Amherstburg as one of the best places to live and raise a family.”

The principals of the two local schools were also pleased with the announcement.

Ron LeClair, Greater Essex County District School Board trustee for Amherstburg/LaSalle, speaks at the announcement for new school funding Oct. 31 in front of General Amherst High School. LeClair is also vice-chair of the public board.

Ron LeClair, Greater Essex County District School Board trustee for Amherstburg/LaSalle, speaks at the announcement for new school funding Oct. 31 in front of General Amherst High School. LeClair is also vice-chair of the public board.

“It will be a wonderful new building for our students,” said Western principal Melissa DeBruyne. “It’s exciting.”

DeBruyne said she has no preference for a location, stating she wants “whatever works for the students.” She believed the students will be excited about getting a new building as well.

“It’s about the programming and services we already offer,” she added. “It’s an exciting opportunity to build on that.”

General Amherst principal Hazel Keefner said it will be nice for the students to not have to go for a walk before playing a football game as the new school will have its own facilities. She also looks forward to an accessible building so that more students can be welcomed.

Keefner believes there are opportunities for new and expanded programs with the two schools being combined into one. She also didn’t have a preference as to a location, stating “whatever is best for the students, staff and community.”

Western Secondary’s “Pumpkinfest” a hit again this year

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A tradition over three decades old continued last weekend at Western Secondary School and it appears to have been a hit once again.

Western’s annual “Pumpkinfest” was held with a packed house of vendors, artists and the general public turning out. Samantha Thomas, a teacher at Western Secondary, said the event started long before she began teaching at the school 22 years ago.

This year’s event went “really well,” she stated.

Andrew Wiebe stands with some of his artwork that he had for sale on the weekend at Western Secondary School. Wiebe was one of 110 vendors that participated at Western’s annual “Pumpkinfest” fundraiser. Proceeds benefit student activities at the school.

Andrew Wiebe stands with some of his artwork that he had for sale on the weekend at Western Secondary School. Wiebe was one of 110 vendors that participated at Western’s annual “Pumpkinfest” fundraiser. Proceeds benefit student activities at the school.

“We are full of vendors and it looks like full of customers as well,” said Thomas, during the two-day event.

Pumpkinfest started out as an auction, she said, and evolved into a craft show. A total of 110 vendors participated both Saturday and Sunday and Thomas added there is a waiting list of vendors wanting to get in next year.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser. All the proceeds go towards student activities,” said Thomas.

The event typically raises about $7,000 from the vendors but booths run by different departments generate additional revenue, she added.

“Every department is making money,” said Thomas.

The majority of students helped in some way, she added, whether it be in one of the booths, selling their own artwork, volunteering to collect canned goods, directing traffic in the parking lot, setting up tables or performing another necessary project to ensure the event ran smoothly.

Lexie Fraser and Nathan Bezaire sell coffee and treats during Pumpkinfest at Western Secondary School.

Lexie Fraser and Nathan Bezaire sell coffee and treats during Pumpkinfest at Western Secondary School.

“They see the school in a different light. That’s the part I like,” said Thomas.

Andrew Wiebe was one of the students that participated as he was selling some of the paintings he has created over the years. Wiebe, 16, estimated he sold about a dozen paintings. He has been painting since he was seven-years-old.

“It’s relaxing, it’s fun,” said Wiebe. “If there is a picture I like, I’ll paint it.”

Other Western students were busy collecting cans and donations for area food banks, as well as their school. Two of those students included Duncan Phelps and Hailey Hunter with Phelps working at his fifth Pumpkinfest and Hunter at her first.

“It’s packed,” said Hunter, of the amount of people that came into the school.

Phelps said that while the cans will go to food banks, monetary donations assist the school’s adaptive and food programs.

Duncan Phelps and Hailey Hunter collected  donations near the entrance to Pumpkinfest.

Duncan Phelps and Hailey Hunter collected
donations near the entrance to Pumpkinfest.

Both Phelps and Hunter said they liked the social aspect of the event as well, with Phelps stating he gets to reconnect with people.

“I like it because I can say hello to a lot of people,” he said.

“You can see a lot of people you haven’t seen for a while,” added Hunter, adding it is a good way to get volunteer hours towards graduation as well.

One of the vendors from the community was Kelly O’Rourke, who brought her work from her “Lake Bottom Art” creations.

“I’ve never been here before so it’s neat to be here,” said O’Rourke.

The gymnasium (pictured) and hallways at Western Secondary School were busy Oct. 29-30 as the school's annual Pumpkinfest was held.

The gymnasium (pictured) and hallways at Western Secondary School were busy Oct. 29-30 as the school’s annual Pumpkinfest was held.

It was only the third show for O’Rourke, with Art by the River being her first. She heard good things about Pumpkinfest so she decided to contact Western Secondary and go to the school.

“It’s great cause as well,” she said.

Lake Bottom Art is new, O’Rourke added, “but it’s a lot of fun. You collect all the glass and all of the stones and then you have to come up with a design.”

Economic Development Committee wants to know vision of youth

 

By RTT Staff

The town’s economic development committee wants to know what the town’s youth sees as the vision for the community.

Bob Rozankovic, the committee chairperson, appeared before town council Oct. 11 to officially launch the essay/multimedia contest the committee is holding. That contest opened Oct. 17 to coincide with Local Government Week, Rozankovic told town council.

The contest is open to all students at General Amherst High School, St. Thomas of Villanova Secondary School and Western Secondary School. The economic development committee is asking students to tell them their vision for the future of Amherstburg.

A Grade 10 civics class from General Amherst High School was one of three classes hosted by Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, CAO John Miceli and senior staff last Monday. These students, along with every other student from General Amherst, Villanova and Western, are eligible to participate in a multi-media contest presented by the town's economic development committee.

A Grade 10 civics class from General Amherst High School was one of three classes hosted by Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, CAO John Miceli and senior staff last Monday. These students, along with every other student from General Amherst, Villanova and Western, are eligible to participate in a multi-media contest presented by the town’s economic development committee.

Submissions can be in the form of a written essay, poem, video, song or animated comic strip. Councillor Joan Courtney said she was pleased the contest allowed for submissions in a variety of mediums, “which I think is fabulous.”

Entries and signed waivers must be submitted to the town by Nov. 21.

A panel of judges will determine the winners. Rozankovic said those winners will be recognized at the Dec. 12 town council meeting.

“It’s a great idea for the economic development committee,” said Councillor Rick Fryer, adding the students are the future of the town. Councillor Leo Meloche, also a member of the economic development committee, reported that local principals have been “very receptive” to the idea.

Local realtors have offered up the first and second prize sponsorships as Brad Bondy of Re/Max will donate the $500 first prize while the Dan Gemus Real Estate Team is sponsoring the $250 second prize. Rozankovic and Diana Marretta are sponsoring the $100 third prize.

Submissions can be dropped off in-person at town hall, located at 271 Sandwich St. S., or be sent in via e-mail to ecdev@amherstburg.ca. For more information, visit www.amherstburg.ca.