On Tuesday, Nov. 15 the doors to Beacon Hill Elementary opened for the first time to all staff and students.
The $13.2 million project has been in the works for a number of years with construction having begun in mid 2015. The project saw some delays in construction throughout the summer of 2016 leading the school to instead open their doors to students mid-November.
During the months of September and October, students of Beacon Hill Elementary School attended C.P. Blakely School and Ecole Steffie Woima School. The 270 students of the new school were welcomed with open arms to C.P. and Steffie until the facility was completed, with six of Beacon Hill’s classes being located at C.P and five at Steffie.
Beacon Hill students began their day in the gymnasium where they gathered with their teachers and fellow students before heading to see their classrooms for the first time. Students had regular class time in the morning with a school wide assembly led by Principal Trevor Sanche along with Vice Principal Suzanne Thibault where all staff members were individually introduced to the students.
Principal Sanche brings nearly 25 years of teaching experience to the school – 15 of which have been in administrative roles. Vice Principal Thibault has worked for the past 14 years as a teacher, mentor and PD Chair in Chinook’s Edge, spending time at both Ecole John Wilson Elementary School in Innisfail and Poplar Ridge School. She has also taught in Australia and Thailand and her experience encompasses all elementary grade levels.
Following the general meet and greet assembly, a scavenger hunt took place in the afternoon which allowed students the opportunity to better explore their new school.
With a capacity to house 500 students, the facility that is Beacon Hill Elementary School showcases a stunning architectural design by Group2 Architecture Interior Design and an immaculate build from general contractor, Shunda Construction.
The school features a number of highly unique and flexible learning environments that allow staff to encourage both collaboration and independent growth respectively.
“It’s a beautiful facility which invites learning. There are so many innovative spaces in that building that encourage students to be curious while reaching out and interacting with their built environment in a collaborative way,” explained Karyn Barber, Associate Superintendent for Chinook’s Edge School Division. “The school itself opens the doors for collaboration and for kids to investigate what learning looks like.”
“We couldn’t be happier to have students, staff, parents and the community all in the school together for the first time. It’s a big day for sure.”
Principal Sanche explained he believes Beacon Hill Elementary’s unique design will allow staff and students of the school the opportunity to further expand on educational initiatives currently being explored in Sylvan Lake schools. “We’ve designed our school to have flexible learning spaces, they are unique for various types of learning opportunities,” said Sanche. “Our school is set up so we have teams of teachers and the classrooms move from space to space – not continuously, we still have home room – but our teachers have the option to move their classes from space to space depending on the subject they are teach or the concept within that subject depending on which space best lends itself that day.”
He detailed the work having been done in C.P. Blakely and Steffie Woima School over the past few years.
“Kids need to learn how to work collaboratively,” said Sanche. “This emphasis is seen throughout schools in Sylvan Lake, but what’s unique about Beacon Hill is that our spaces allow us to foster that collaborative mindset.”
“Students will be working in small groups much of the time while at Beacon Hill, so they need to learn how to be respectful, work with others in a way that is effective and because they will spend significant amounts of time in these spaces they will have to learn.”
Sanche explained the world is an increasingly changing place and it is the role of educators to best prepare youth with a skill set which lends to success in the work place.
“Much of the way kids learn these days is through collaborative learning,” said Sanche. “These are skills they will take with them into high school and well into post secondary and the workforce. This is how most work forces operate these days is in a collaborative sense.”
He detailed how this emphasis on collaborative learning can be seen in schools across Sylvan Lake, however at Beacon Hill they will have a chance to explore this idea in a new way thanks to the clever design of the school which sees classrooms having the ability to expand or flow into other parts of the school.
Sanche wished to again thank the staff and students of C.P. Blakely School, Ecole Steffie Woima School and also Fox Run School who helped to house part of Beacon Hill’s administrative team over the last two months.
“All of the students have been in a class with the same peers as they are seeing today as well as the same teacher, so really the only thing that’s been new for them is their classrooms,” said Sanche on the transition to Beacon Hill. “Steffie and C.P. really created a nice environment for us and welcomed us in. They changed their schedules and structures to accommodate us and really welcomed us.
He added, “We formed collaborative planning groups between the three schools that never would have happened if construction hadn’t delayed us getting in two months late. We plan to continue those relationships and keep them growing over the coming years.”