Students cheer opening of Lois Hole School

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Pancakes and Lego bricks were on the menu Wednesday as Lois Hole Elementary students woke up to a new day at a new school.

About 470 St. Albert students and their parents walked, biked and bused Wednesday to the first day of school at Lois E. Hole Elementary – St. Albert’s newest public school. The mood was cheery despite the vaguely apocalyptic blood-red sun overhead (a consequence of forest fire smoke), with parents taking selfies in front of the school and kids lugging backpacks and school supplies inside.

“Hey guys! Have a great day!” cried principal Kevin Jones as more kids romped through the front door.

Most of day one was taken up by school tours and a McDonalds pancake breakfast with musical accompaniment by the ska/jazz/rock band The Thursdays.

“Everybody is new to the place, including the teachers,” Jones said, so the focus in these first few days is on community-building. The pancake breakfast was meant to give students a chance to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones.

Students and staff from the school came mostly from Muriel Martin, Leo Nickerson and Sir Alexander Mackenzie. Most lived within walking distance, and many biked – so many that Jones said they might need more bike racks.

Christian Paquette and his three kids all biked to school on day one – something that wasn’t possible back when they went to Nickerson.

“They got to sleep in an extra 20 minutes,” he said of his kids, as they no longer had to take the bus.

Having a school just five blocks away meant that they no longer had to pay for bus passes, Paquette said. Still, he hoped the city would bring in some traffic-calming measures on Erin Ridge Drive to make it safer for kids to get to school.

Grade 4 student Taryn Hurlburt, wearing a fashionable yellow shirt with a pineapple on it and rainbow-coloured braces, said she was nervous as she headed into class.

“I’m starting at a new school with new people I’ve never met before,” she said, and she’s left many of her old friends behind at Muriel Martin.

It’s a unique situation as everyone, not just the Grade 1 kids, is going through a similar situation, said school councillor Michelle Sutton.

“You have students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 where this is a really big change for them.”

School staffers held several open houses over the last few months and a meet-the-teacher barbecue on Tuesday to help students grow more comfortable with the new school, Sutton said. Teachers also got together to assemble furniture and customize their rooms.

Teacher Abi Henneberry built a mini-forest in her room, propping birch logs she cut herself with a chainsaw against the walls and hanging birdhouses and stuffed animals from them.

“Sometimes you can’t go out to nature, so we brought nature in,” she said.

Other teachers made their marks in different ways. Mark Rouault decorated his room with superhero logos and a statue of Batman, while Janelle Grice hung what appeared to be a shark’s jaw outside her room.

Jones had a Star Wars candy jar that reads “Welcome to the Dark Side” on his desk as well as a bevy of stuffed bears, and had put some of his larger Star Wars Lego models in the lobby’s display case as placeholders for future school memorabilia.

“That’s my bad habit!” he said of the Lego, laughing.

The school also has a permanent Lego bulletin board in the front lobby that has proven very popular, he noted.

Students will continue to get to know their school this week with scavenger hunts, community service, and visits to the local seniors home, Jones said.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.