The large sign on the street reads Morinville Public Elementary School.
But above the school’s front door is a reminder of the past – the faint letters identifying Georges P. Vanier elementary.
After a heated debate last year, Vanier was transferred to the Sturgeon School Division from Greater St. Albert Catholic as part of a broader move to accommodate secular education in Morinville.
The transition took place over several months, during which time the nascent public school had a nomadic lifestyle, moving from the community cultural centre to the board’s office and then to modular classrooms.
For principal Wayne Rufiange, having a permanent home for his school is an important step forward.
“To have our own space is a relief and kind of makes it official,” he said, though the relief has come with a lot of hard work to accommodate a redistribution of students, staff and supplies.
While the new school had walls and a roof, there was a need to get desks and books in place for the first day of classes on Sept. 4. Furniture had to be assembled. Rufiange had often had delivery men lined up outside his door. Painters were brought in to give the school a facelift.
“If we were to get a brand new school if it was getting built, typically they have staff working for a whole year to get that stuff ready whereas we didn’t really know what was happening until June,” Rufiange said.
Getting everything in place for the school’s opening has been a major logistical challenge, he added.
“They say four weeks for delivery of something and all of a sudden it turns into six or eight weeks.”
Most of the school’s equipment and supplies will be ready on time, though the school’s library will have to wait a few weeks for books.
Rufiange said he expects there will be a few hurdles in the first few weeks, but the classrooms will be ready for their new pupils.
“Sometimes you don’t know you need something until you need it, so there are going to be some growing pains that way,” he said.
Across town at Notre Dame elementary, the school faces a whole different set of challenges.
Everything that was taken out of Morinville elementary (formerly Vanier) before the transition ended up in Notre Dame. One hundred and forty more students are on the way as well, swelling enrolment to roughly 500. Modular classrooms that were attached to Vanier are here now too, along with several new ones.
Putting the modulars in place turned the school into a construction site for several weeks, but so far everything has been on time, said principal Marlene Pelletier.
“They have been on target with everything they have communicated and it has just been teamwork on everybody’s part,” she said. “It has kind of gone like clockwork and the timelines are moving along and we are moving with them.”
Pelletier said the new modulars and new students can be comfortably accommodated at Notre Dame and parents need not worry about overcrowding.
“I think probably the biggest challenge, to me, will be to continue to get to know the families from this area.”
She said she expects kids will do just fine with the change.
“I think for the kids, they are pretty resilient, they are pretty great with change.”
Overall she sees benefits to the change and to putting the issue into the past.
“I think it is a great opportunity for our division and it is a great opportunity for this community to have a new beginning.”
Morinville public elementary will have some empty classrooms this coming year, but Rufiange expects that won’t last.
The kindergarten to Grade 5 school already has more than 200 students registered and will keep adding grades year after year.
“If I keep getting 60 students in kindergarten, if that is the ballpark number to go with, in two years we will be at capacity already,” Rufiange said.
He also expects that with the school in a permanent home, many parents will take a second look at Morinville Public Elementary in the next couple of weeks.
“Those parents that have taken the summer to decide what they want to do, they will take the plunge,” he said.
In addition to buying new books, basketballs and desks, Rufiange is hopeful the school will be able to build some of its own traditions.
“I think that real sense of community and family we started to build last year and we are looking forward to continuing with that.”
He said the real benefit to having a new school is that it can start from scratch.
“We are not constrained by doing the same things just because that is the way we have done it for 20 years.”