Stella Maris

Stella Maris joins list of WECDSB schools designated as “eco-schools”

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Stella Maris is one of three Windsor-Essex Catholic District Board schools to receive a designation as an “eco-school” this year, bringing the board’s total up to 15.

The board announced the new designations via press release with Mike Pierre, the Catholic board’s curriculum consultant who oversees the eco-schools program stating: “This is really a celebration of all the hard work our students and staff have done towards greening their schools. These people are keenly aware of the importance of protecting our environment and taking meaningful steps in their schools to reduce waste, lower energy consumption, and improve their school grounds.”

“Our board put it out there and we decided as a school we wanted to do it,” explained principal Sophie DiPaolo.

DiPaolo told the RTT that teachers Amy Williams and Tina Joncas took the project and ran with it and worked with the students to implement environmentally-friendly initiatives.

Stella Maris School has been designated as an “eco-school” by Ontario Eco-Schools. The school and its eco-team (pictured) have undertaken numerous initiatives to help improve the environment.

Stella Maris School has been designated as an “eco-school” by Ontario Eco-Schools. The school and its eco-team (pictured) have undertaken numerous initiatives to help improve the environment.

“It’s an initiative that came from Eco-schools Ontario,” Joncas explained. “They try and recruit schools to be leaders for the environment.”

Stella Maris held a “ban the bottle” campaign where students were encouraged to bring in reusable bottles instead of bottled water. They also worked with Sobeys on Earth Day with the school decorating the paper bags the grocery store used on that day. There have also been plastic bag collections and landscaping done at the school to make the school as “green” as possible.

The school has also sold reusable water bottles, said student Emily Swintak. She added recycling lessons have also been brought home as she earned a “golden recycling box” for her efforts.

“Ever since the beginning of the year I’ve learned how good it is to recycle,” said Jonathan Joncas.

Madison Werstein said she learned about the improper disposal of plastic products and the harm it can do to animals with Emma Jones also adding that littering and waste can have a detrimental impact on animals.

“We learned about which materials go in which box,” added Emmily Cota.

Nico Fox pointed out they also collected batteries due to the dangers of zinc from improperly discarded batteries.

Student Adam Amyotte also pointed out the need to recycle paper bags rather than throw them in the garbage.

Across the province, a record number of 1,830 schools were certified for the 2016-17 school year. Ontario eco-schools works with 56 school boards to nurture student leadership and foster environmental learning and action in school communities.

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.

Saying goodbye to St. Bernard School

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The fate of St. Bernard School was decided in April when the Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board voted to close it and now it’s time to say goodbye.

Former St. Bernard School teachers Anne Deslippe (left) and Christina D’Aloisio sign the guest book at last Friday night’s open house.

Former St. Bernard School teachers Anne Deslippe (left) and Christina D’Aloisio sign the guest book at last Friday night’s open house.

A Mass was held Friday night followed by an open house at the Richmond St. school where current staff and students got a chance to mingle with former staff and students. The last day of classes is today with the school expected to shut down for good in early July.

Principal Marisa Wismer said Friday night’s event was a chance to “take a stroll down memory lane” as people from the past and present got together. The process leading to the closure has been “very positive,” said Wismer, citing the Fun & Friends Day that was recently held at Stella Maris School that went well.

With the bulk of the students and much of the St. Bernard staff moving over to Stella Maris in September, the emphasis has been on bringing the schools together and keeping things positive for the students with Wismer noting the staff wanted to make it “the best year possible for them.” She added last Wednesday night’s graduation went “very well” and that the mood was upbeat.

“It was definitely very meaningful as it was the final graduating class but it went very well,” she said.

St. Bernard School graduate Kate Chant reads one of the old graduation programs that were on display at the June 24 open house.

St. Bernard School graduate Kate Chant reads one of the old graduation programs that were on display at the June 24 open house.

Wismer, who will become principal at St. John de Brebeuf Catholic Elementary School in Kingsville next school year, believed there may be some sadness this week as the 2015-16 school year officially comes to a close.

Wismer also taught at St. Bernard, as did retired teachers Anne Deslippe and Christina D’Aloisio, who came out to the open house Friday evening.

“It’s sad. There are a lot of good memories in this school,” said Deslippe. “It’s sad they are closing it.”

Deslippe, who spent 13 years of her teaching career at St. Bernard School, recalled her father Ed McBride was on the Catholic school board when it was built in the late 1950’s.

A group of staff members gather for a group photo at the St. Bernard School open house June 24.

A group of staff members gather for a group photo at the St. Bernard School open house June 24.

D’Aloisio said she taught at St. Bernard for 27 years and enjoyed every bit of it. She added she was able to come back and visit as she has a grandchild in the Ontario Early Years Centre within the building.

“It was a great place to teach,” said D’Aloisio. “I loved being here.”

Deslippe said she fit in at St. Bernard right away and it was “a wonderful experience.” D’Aloisio recalled the school being more open that it currently is as there weren’t any walls when she first taught there and students from other classes would cut through her class to return to where they were supposed to be.

D’Aloisio commented about the school’s central location and that they used numerous town amenities.

“We made use of everything,” she recalled. “Everything is so central.”

Current teacher Eva Pacitti spent the first two decades of her career and had many happy memories at St. Bernard but said the thought process is that they are getting “bigger and better” with the consolidation at Stella Maris School.

“Our focus is getting bigger and moving to a new building,” she said.

St. Bernard School graduates Leah Brownlie (left) and Marissa Nakitiuk (right) visit with teacher Eva Pacitti (centre) during the open house at St. Bernard School.

St. Bernard School graduates Leah Brownlie (left) and Marissa Nakitiuk (right) visit with teacher Eva Pacitti (centre) during the open house at St. Bernard School.

University of Windsor students Leah Brownlie and Marissa Nakitiuk returned to their former elementary school Friday night, pointing out they have been friends since elementary school. Nikitiuk said they came back “just to see it.

“Everything looks the same,” she said.

Browlie said it was sad that the school is being closed but she will always have her good memories of her time at St. Bernard School.

“I think the talent shows were my favourite,” added Nikitiuk.

The school was originally constructed in 1958, Wismer stated, with additions being built in 1961 and 1971.

“It’s been a cornerstone of the community for many years.”

 

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/

DrumFIT exercise comes to Stella Maris

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

Students at Stella Maris School got a chance to get some exercise in a somewhat untraditional way last week.

Val Shah and Lila Ferguson from DrumFIT were in last Thursday with their large exercise balls and drumsticks with children given a chance at a different form of fitness. Some adults got in on the action as well.

“It’s a cardiovascular program and we include brain exercises,” said Shah. “It’s a fun way to get them moving.”

The activity was put to music with various routines performed. Ferguson also noted it is “exercise for the brain and body and it lets them have fun in school.”

Parent council at Stella Maris School brought in DrumFIT exercise courses last Thursday where students and adults alike were able to get some physical activity and have fun at the same time. Students enjoy drumming on the balls with their drumsticks.

Parent council at Stella Maris School brought in DrumFIT exercise courses last Thursday where students and adults alike were able to get some physical activity and have fun at the same time. Students enjoy drumming on the balls with their drumsticks.

“It allows kids to be kids,” added Shah. “They get to move, have fun, be loud and express themselves.”

The classes at Stella Maris lasted about 40 minutes each with all grade levels taking part.

“This is also a really good program for both boys and girls and for people of all ages,” said Ferguson.

Lila Ferguson and Val Shah guide students through the routines last Thursday at Stella Maris.

Lila Ferguson and Val Shah guide students through the routines last Thursday at Stella Maris.

The DrumFIT program has been taught to people from two to 96-years-old, Shah added, and can be brought to seniors homes, pre-schools or to people with special needs. For more information, visit www.drum.fit.

The program was brought to Stella Maris thanks to the work of the school’s parent council, known as the Catholic School Advisory Council (CSAC). The Stella Maris CSAC got a $550 grant last year and this year’s CSAC also contributed money towards it.