Late portables mean crowded schools
Seven units delayed, says district
By: Kevin Ma
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 07, 2013 06:00 am
St. Albert schools are a little cramped this month due to delivery delays for some portable classrooms, and that’s made teachers get creative to find space for their new students.
St. Albert Public Schools was supposed to get seven new modular classrooms this fall, said Alberta Education spokesperson Camille Weleschuk, but they haven’t arrived yet since the manufacturer, Modus, is behind schedule.
This delay has affected many of the 101 modulars the province ordered from the company for this fall, she said. These units have not been diverted down south to help communities affected by this summer’s flood, she added. “We have a completely different supplier (Enzo) for the flooded schools.”
The portables were supposed to go to Leo Nickerson, Muriel Martin, Elmer S. Gish and Sir Alexander Mackenzie schools, said public board assistant superintendent Michael Brenneis.
Schools learned of the delay earlier this summer, he said, and have taken special steps to accommodate students until the modulars arrive. “The goal is to minimize impact to instruction.” Roughly 170 students were directly affected by the space crunch.
Gish has converted its computer lab and music room into classrooms to house about 40 Grade 1 and Grade 4 students, said principal Erin Steele. The lab’s 40 iMacs have been distributed throughout the school, and supplemented by two cart-loads of Chromebooks (web-based laptops).
Gish elementary music teacher Jon Buryn has had to take his show on the road as a result, pushing a cart full of instruments from class to class. Meanwhile, a Grade 1 class gets regular lessons in the music room, surrounded by drum sets and xylophones.
“It’s hard to move a piano to each room,” he continued, and you can’t haul 27 glockenspiels wherever you need to go. He’s switched to a guitar to lead lessons and has the students use more portable instruments such as rhythm sticks. He’s also moved more of the music theory and history lessons to the start of the term.
“It’s highly more effective to have a music room,” he said, as you don’t have to spend as much time packing up and moving from room to room. Still, they’re managing. “It sure makes me value my classroom!” he joked.
Leo Nickerson was supposed to get two portables to house about 50 Grade 6 students, said vice-principal Helen Nowell. Since they’re late, they’ve put one class of students in the art room and two (about 34 students) in another room. “They’re just all together in one room with both teachers instructing.” One of those two classes will get its own room as soon as they can find the space, she added.
Art teacher Andrea Daly is now going room to room with her lessons instead of having students come to her, Nowell said. The school has also delayed its artist-in-residence program (which requires a studio) until the portables arrive.
“It’s a setback, it’s a delay, but it’s not going to affect the teaching and the quality of instruction our students will receive,” Nowell said.
Sir Alexander Mackenzie school staffers have started eating lunch in the library so that a Grade 4 class can use their staff room, said vice-principal Cory Albrecht. This involved knocking a hole in a wall to give the room an additional door. The staff kitchen is separate from the space with the students, he noted, so the students do not get free coffee.
The portables should arrive over the next few weeks, Brenneis said, with each taking a few weeks to set up. Gish’s units should be ready by the end of the month, with all of them in place by the end of October.
Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools did not get portables this year and were unaffected by this delay, said board superintendent David Keohane.