St. Bernard

Traffic study concerns delay Stella Maris expansion

 

(UPDATE: The River Town Times learned Wednesday afternoon the town of Amherstburg has received information they were looking for. Town officials, including CAO John Miceli and director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin confirm additional information has been received by the town and that the matter “is close to being ironed out.” Galvin said he does not expect it to take longer than a few days to straighten out the matter.)

By Ron Giofu

 

A four-classroom expansion is being held up at Stella Maris School with the town seeking more information with regards to a traffic study for the area.

Town council received and agreed to consider the site plan Monday night and also gave CAO John Miceli and director of planning, development and legislative services Mark Galvin the right to execute the site plan once the traffic information given is deemed satisfactory. The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) voted to close St. Bernard School in April and amalgamate it with Stella Maris but traffic information, including busing figures, are holding up the process.

Not all members of council are happy with the delay.

“I’m a bit choked up because I feel the students are being held hostage and I don’t know why,” said Councillor Rick Fryer.

Fryer said Dillon Consulting already did a traffic study and believed the conflict is because it differs from a study the town performed.

“I’m curious to know why we are in a pissing match with our traffic study and the one they provided to us,” said Fryer.

School is starting in a month and the St. Bernard School students are coming to Stella Maris no matter what, he added.

“What’s the holdup?” he asked. “We need to move on and get this done by September. The students are going there regardless.”

Stella Maris School

Stella Maris School

Miceli said it is the responsibility of administration to ensure the site is expanded safely and properly and that the town “tends to disagree” with some of the statistics provided in the WECDSB traffic study, including the assumption that all 125 students moving to Stella Maris will be bused.

Councillor Jason Lavigne was, like Fryer, unimpressed with the notion the project could be delayed. He said students will be back there in four weeks and questioned if the town has ever gone back to a consultant like Dillon and sought more information due to a disagreement with a study. He pointed out Dillon has been used by the town itself for work.

“I’m a little confused,” said Lavigne.

Galvin said in his experiences, he has questioned firms about traffic studies and has asked firms to validate figures in those studies. Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said council has asked professional people and firms a number of times for more information on items.

DiCarlo’s response prompted a brief but testy exchange between Lavigne and himself as Lavigne said he was seeking answers from administration and stated “thanks for answering questions for administration.”

“Last time I checked, it was my meeting and I control who talks,” DiCarlo shot back.

Board officials were allowed to speak with Councillor Diane Pouget stating her belief they have put council in “a very hard situation” and that a “crisis” was created. John Bortolotti of Sfera Architects, who has designed the new four-classroom addition, disagreed there was a crisis.

Bortolotti said they have a good relationship with Amherstburg administration but he believed the most important part of the project are the access points to the school. He indicated a new parking lot and drop-off area would be the top priority.

“I don’t believe this is a crisis,” he said. “I don’t believe we put people in danger.”

Pouget said there are no portables on site and pointed out the lack of exterior construction at the school.

“There’s nothing ready for the children,” she said. “They are going to school in three weeks.”

“We are spinning our wheels and wasting the town’s time,” Lavigne added. “I understand concerns about traffic but to hold up the project is a bad thing.”

Lavigne noted he chairs the traffic committee and has not heard any complaints from neighbours.

Jerry Racine, who said he has overseen construction projects on behalf of the board for over three decades, said the school was built with a capacity of 400 student with 377 being the projected enrollment. The school did have portables at one point and Racine added things have changed over the years as a day care is among the amenities now offered at the school.

Board officials also told council that only one extra bus would be needed to accommodate the influx of new students.

Stephen Fields, communications co-ordinator with the WECDSB, stated there has in fact been work happening at the site.

“Work on the site began the week of July 25. Interior demolition has been completed and drywall is going up,” said Fields. “The interior renovations should be sufficiently completed to permit occupancy by students for the start of school in September.

Work on a four-classroom addition is projected to be completed by late October or early November, Fields added, though Bortolotti told council Monday night that if the site plan had been approved it could go up by the end of September with senior students to be housed in the school’s gymnasium until then.

Fields also noted the board will also be building a new bus bay and parking lot.

“”We are confident that we will be able to work with our partners in the Town of Amherstburg to resolve their concerns, and to be able to adequately and safely accommodate all of our students when classes resume in September,” said Fields.

Local students take the “Tour for Humanity”

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A $1.2 million mobile classroom built by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies made its way to a pair of Amherstburg schools this week.

The “Tour for Humanity” bus was in the first week of a two-week tour of the area and was brought to the region by the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board. It was at St. Bernard School Wednesday and Stella Maris School Thursday.

Students at Stella Maris School prepare to watch a video regarding the holocaust during the Tour for Humanity's stop at the school May 12. It was brought to the area by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and the WIndsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.

Students at Stella Maris School prepare to watch a video regarding the holocaust during the Tour for Humanity’s stop at the school May 12. It was brought to the area by the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board.

Danny Berman, an educational associate with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, said they tour all year long with the bus and have been doing so since it was built two years ago. They try to hit all parts of Ontario.

“We’re pretty much booked every day of the school year,” said Berman. “(The students) leave pretty impressed with the bus and it motivates them to make a change and a positive impact.”

Not only do educational associates like Berman talk about the horrors of the Holocaust, they also share messages of racism, slavery, Japanese internment camps, and hate. The presentation also discussed cyber-bullying and Berman told students that is “a great way to spread hate” without feeling they are exposed the same level of consequences in doing so.

Educational associate Danny Berman speaks to a local class May 12.

Educational associate Danny Berman speaks to a local class May 12.

“We show how they are all connected,” said Berman, adding they want people to take action against such things, not be a bystander to them. The centre encourages people to make a positive change.

The presentations also pointed out those who have made a positive difference in the world such as Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank and Mahatma Gandhi, though students were also told even small acts of kindness do make a difference.

“At our present point in history, with all of the issues and conflicts our world is currently facing, the need to educate our students about the virtues of acceptance, respect, and understanding has never been more vital or urgent,” said WECDSB director of education Paul Picard in a press release. “These ideals are already woven throughout our curriculum, but with its high-tech capabilities and expert facilitators, the Tour for Humanity’s message will resonate with our students on an entirely new level.”

The bus, once it has finished its stops in the area May 20, will have visited four secondary schools and six elementary schools.

The Tour for Humanity mobile classroom sits outside Stella Maris School May 12.

The Tour for Humanity mobile classroom sits outside Stella Maris School May 12.

“After touring concentration camps in Poland and visiting Israel with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, we were extremely impressed by the organization’s depth of knowledge and expertise, and its commitment to promoting human rights,” added WECDSB superintendent of education Mike Seguin, who has been helping organize the local tour. “We felt their message was far too important to limit to just a one-day visit, and we wanted as many of our students as possible to participate in this amazing experience.”

For further information on the Tour for Humanity, visit http://tourforhumanity.com/

Stella Maris gives St. Bernard School students and parents a look at their new home

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

St. Bernard School students and parents got a look at their new home last Tuesday night as an open house was held at Stella Maris.

With the schools consolidating at the Stella Maris site starting in September, students coming over from St. Bernard got to have a look around their soon-to-be new school. Teachers from both schools were on hand with Stella Maris principal Sophie DiPaolo and St. Bernard principal Marisa Wismer greeting students and parents as they entered.

Stella Maris students Emily and Megan Regnier welcomed St. Bernard School students to their school May 3. An open house was held at Stella Maris as a way to welcome the St. Bernard students that will be coming over in September.

Stella Maris students Emily and Megan Regnier welcomed St. Bernard School students to their school May 3. An open house was held at Stella Maris as a way to welcome the St. Bernard students that will be coming over in September.

“It’s a great opportunity to meet some of the students and teachers,” said DiPaolo.

The two principals were happy with the turnout, as the event began at 5:30 p.m. and saw a steady flow of people come through right from the start.

“It allows them to see the school,” said Wismer. “Our goal is to make it as smooth of a transition as possible for the children.”

DiPaolo said the transition team had one meeting prior to the open house and more meetings are expected. Wismer added they will likely plan more transition related activities.

Tania Parete and her children attended the open house. She was impressed with what she saw.

Sophie and Samantha Bergeron take a look around one of the classrooms at Stella Maris School May 3. An open house was held at the school to welcome in St. Bernard students who are coming there after the two schools are consolidated.

Sophie and Samantha Bergeron take a look around one of the classrooms at Stella Maris School May 3. An open house was held at the school to welcome in St. Bernard students who are coming there after the two schools are consolidated.

“It’s actually really nice,” said Parete. “I’m surprised by how many people are here.”

Parete said her oldest child is fine with the idea of switching schools.

“He’s happy to be with all of his friends,” she said.

Kim Renaud found Stella Maris to be “very welcoming” and she believed the transition is going well thus far.

“They are keeping us posted, which is nice,” said Renaud.

Addition to Stella Maris School planned for completion in the fall

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The addition coming to Stella Maris School will occur sooner rather than later with portables for the site looking less likely.

The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board (WECDSB) received $9 million in funding from the Ontario government for numerous projects April 25, with $1.8 million of that money being earmarked for the Stella Maris expansion. Mario Iatonna, executive superintendent of corporate services with the WECDSB, said work on the project could begin as soon as the 2015-16 school year concludes.

“We’re planning on building a four-classroom expansion,” Iatonna said.

The addition would be on the west side of the building, with interior renovations planned as well. The interior work will include work near the resource centre with a new JK/SK classroom being constructed.

The expansion of the building will add another 3,200 square feet, he pointed out.

The parking lot is planned for expansion with a new drop-off point for parents and students also being created. The expansion of a bus bay along Brunner Ave. is also planned.

“Any new construction we do is fully accessible,” said Iatonna, adding architects will review the entire school to see if any other accessible upgrades are necessary.

The WECDSB hopes the $1.8 million will cover the entire project but Iatonna indicated the board will kick in the rest should the cost exceed $1.8 million.

Due to the funding coming so quickly, Iatonna said the original plan to have portables at Stella Maris temporarily could be shelved as the addition could be done by late-September or early-October. Based on previous expansions the board has undertaken, the time frame for completion is usually two to three months. In the meantime, there might be classes taking place in the resource centre or the gymnasium until the project is complete.

Stella Maris is scheduled to have an influx of students next year due to the closure of St. Bernard School and the consolidation of the two schools at the Stella Maris School site.

Stella Maris expansion receives funding from the province

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Ontario education minister Liz Sandals was in the area Monday announcing millions in funding for local school projects with an Amherstburg school being one of the recipients.

Sandals announced $9 million in funding for projects within the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board with $1.8 million of that coming to Amherstburg. Stella Maris School will be expanded with that $1.8 million as the school will be consolidated with St. Bernard School starting this fall.

The WECDSB voted April 5 to close St. Bernard School in June and consolidate the students at the Stella Maris site. Portables will be used until the expansion and renovations to Stella Maris are complete.

Other work for the WECDSB will include a new gymnasium for Assumption College Catholic High School as well as accompanying renovations. St. James Catholic School in Windsor will receive additions to expand its capacity.

A new gymnasium and renovations will be added to Cardinal Carter Catholic Secondary School. Renovations will also take place at St. Louis Catholic Elementary School. The

$4.5 million expansion of Cardinal Carter and St. Louis will accommodate students from

Queen of Peace Catholic Elementary School.

“Congratulations to the Windsor community on this important investment. By building up our schools we are giving more students the enhanced learning environment they need while supporting local jobs and strengthening the economy. Our government is proud to invest in capital projects that are bringing students and communities together,” Sandals said in a press release.

Sandals was also in Kingsville Monday where she announced $44 million in funding for a new public JK-Grade 12 school in that town.