The new Riverside Public School building is bright, shiny, and a big change for both staff and students alike. However, six weeks into the school year, as with any new build, there are a few kinks that still need to get worked out.
School principal Brent Hatcher says that while things are running pretty smoothly, there are other aspects that aren’t working as planned.
One of the bigger issues? The front doors to the school. The building was given automatic sliding doors at the main entrances, which aren’t working so well some of the time.
“We have the automatic doors, and we have had issues for sure with them. The trim hasn’t been put on them yet, and they are really, really persnickety. One day the alarm went off, and the fire department came, they came inside, and then they couldn’t get out. Certainly, the doors have been a work in progress, as have the alarms,” he said.
On one occasion, the doors decided to stay open and the school had a few animal visitors that day.
“We had some pigeons come and visit our atrium,” he said.
The alarm system has also gone off a couple of times, set off by dust from the Elmira Childcare Centre that is still under construction on the west side of the building.
“I think, touch wood, that we have them all fixed now,” laughed Hatcher.
Construction also took a bit longer than anticipated. Teachers couldn’t get into their new classrooms until almost two weeks after the set date of occupancy.
“We didn’t get in until the Thursday before Labour Day – that was huge,” said Hatcher. “We were kind of treading water to get things going, but everyone was ready for the first day of school.”
With plenty of new hallways, classrooms and a whole other floor to navigate, Hatcher says he is surprised that both staff and students have been getting to their destinations quite easily.
“I think they are adjusting very well, though. There have been a lot of tours from teachers to help them get adjusted,” he said. “The nice thing about the school is that each little pod has their own bathrooms. They don’t have to wander through the hallways trying to find a bathroom, so that is good.”
There is plenty of upside to go along with the hiccups that come with adjusting to a new setting, though.
“It is a beautiful building. We have so much room now, which is a positive,” said Hatcher. “There is room for everyone. When we have people coming in to do meetings, like the school psychologist, we have a room where they can have their meetings instead of sitting out in the hall, or having me leave my office for a couple of hours. That is very nice, and for our Strong Start program, there are places they can work and there are places they can put their stuff. We also have places for our own resources. As we were packing up, we would find things we didn’t know we had and now they are out where people can actually see it and use it.”
The music and French teachers even have their own classroom now, whereas at the previous location, they would travel from classroom to classroom with their materials.
As for what the students are saying about their new home? They love it.
“One of the things they are most intrigued with are the automatic hand dryers. So, they are playing with them. We had to have a talk about that. Every morning we have our quiet, mindful moment, and the sound of the hand dryers would start,” said Hatcher with a laugh. “But, it is basically about the size and the space they have. I don’t want to say they are in awe of it, but it’s about the size. It has been great so far.”
There are still a few additions Hatcher and the Riverside school council are looking at for the future of the site, namely a playground, but those will have to wait a bit.
“I think for the inside, we are fairly well equipped. We have everything we need and beyond when we compare to what we had. The outside certainly we will play it by ear,” he said.“We will try and go through the whole year before we make any big changes. I know that the school council is focused on raising money to put in a creative playground, but that is something that we have to look at as a group – what that should look like. We are going to play around and see how kids are using the space and what space we will have.”