They’ve got one year in the place and they’re going to make it count – not just for themselves, but make it count for the school and the community.
They’re the first graduating class from the new Bridgetown Regional Community School and they had their first meeting on Sept. 7. The day the school opened its doors for the first time.
Sixty-seven of them sat on the academic steps and talked. They want to set the standard.
When student council president Hailey Saunders first walked into the school on Sept. 5 she was not just amazed that it was a school, or that it would bring students together, or that they would have a better place to learn. She was excited about the community being excited.
“I know everyone in Bridgetown, even outside Bridgetown and around the province is hearing about this school and wanting to come and see it,” she said. “I’m seeing a lot of younger families coming and moving into the area, and it’s so nice to see that.”
In fact, the school was built for 450 students, but enrolment on opening day of the Primary to Grade 12 school was about 480.
Four of them sit on the padded, semi-circular bench in the library, just off the village square foyer.
“It’s a modern, well-thought-out, all inclusive, altogether beautiful building,” said Jonathan Saunders, student council vice-president. Does it motivate him to learn? “How could it not,” he asked.
“There are a lot of specific things that I’m really excited about when I look around at this school,” said grad student Elyse Whitman. “I’m really excited about the new space for drama, because I’m always involved in that. So I’m really looking forward to any productions we can put on.”
More broadly speaking, she wants to have a positive effect that will carry on into the future.
“Mostly, what I’m really looking forward to is being the first graduating class in this school because I really want to be able to set a tone and set a standard for graduation classes that come after us,” Elyse said. “I really want to show that our grad class wants to be part of the community and wants to be involved.”
“I’m so glad that I get to graduate from here. I know as a grad class we’re so excited,” she said. “I just want the school to start off right. I’m really excited to have that.”
Abby Beals is in tune with her Grade 12 classmates.
“I think that the new school, not the building itself, but just the fact that it’s kind of like a new start is going to strengthen our school community a lot,” Beals said. “Every student I’ve seen today, the looks on their faces have been in pure awe. I just think it’s going to be a great year and there’s many great years to come.”
Abby also noted that their particular class has come full circle in a way. Elyse explains.
“We came in as the first Grade 6s to BRHS (Bridgetown Regional High School) and it was something really new, because we were the youngest and we were going to this big new school,” she said. “And we weren’t expecting to in Grade 6. So we came in and we kind of worked our way up from being that young, overwhelmed class – and it kind of feels similar now. We’re the Grade 12 class but we’re on entirely new ground with this new school. Kind of like Abby said, full circle.”
Both Abby and Elyse had originally gone to Lawrencetown Consolidated School. Hailey and Jonathan went to Bridgetown Regional Elementary School before the first steps of creating a Primary to 12 school were initiated.
“This was all new to us when we went to Bridgetown because we had always seen our Grade 6 graduation at our school,” said Abby. “It was all new.”
“It’s just really amazing to look back at that Grade 6 year,” said Elyse. “It was Bridgetown-Lawrencetown coming together and I didn’t know what was going to happen when we came together – and I made some of my best friends from Bridgetown and now I get to graduate with them. There’s a lot of emotions going on.”
Hailey was also happy for the 14 international students attending the new school.
“Their first experience of school in Canada gets to be something like this,” she said. “They get to say ‘I went to this amazing school in Canada.’”
“I had been waiting to get in for a long time,” said Jonathan. “They told us the office opened on the 28th (of August) and so I wanted to come in and pretend that I had some sort of issue just so that I could see the new school. And then the Tuesday after that we were allowed in on the tour. Mr. Reid had called us and asked us – a large group of us – he asked a group of students if they wanted to come in on Tuesday so we could become acquainted with the school so we could give tours today – Thursday. So obviously that was the opportunity. The suspense had been building for a year – the whole year we’d been waiting to see this brand new school and we finally got in.”
They had all tried to get glimpses of it. Hailey when she was running track practice and try to get a look. Elyse would drive in her car and look at it from afar.
The suspense was building. When the day came for the tour, it surpassed their expectations – by miles.
Elyse said she didn’t know that it was possible for people to put something together like this.
“I didn’t know that students would be able to get to learn in something like this,” she said. “Something that makes me proud is that this has a lot of cutting edge technology and a lot of new things going on in it with the collaboration spaces and the green roof, and making it an environmentally friendly school. So that’s something that I think a lot of us take pride in – to know that Bridgetown is reflecting how progressive it is and how willing it is to move forward into the future with this new school.”
“Not to mention they were so inclusive with students’ ideas,” said Hailey. “Jonathan and I went to a few meetings and just to see some of the things we talked about, and other students mentioned, to actually see it go into a building.”
“They actually consulted with the GSA, the Gender Sexuality Alliance, about the bathroom situation,” said Elyse, “and that’s why our school has gender-neutral bathrooms. That feels really good. It’s something to be proud of.”
Jonathan remembers the day, almost exactly two years ago, when Premier Stephen McNeil and then Minister of Education Karen Casey visited the old Bridgetown Regional High School and everybody walked out to the empty field just to the east.
It was the sod turning for the new school. The Premier was at the podium and described the road to construction as an emotional and long journey, noting that while BRHS holds a special place in the hearts of many, it was not meeting the needs of the student body today. He said the new school will meet the needs of the next generation of great students in Bridgetown.
Jonathan remembers the Premier turning around to a group of students and giving them high fives. The four grad students sitting on that bench in the new school, two years later, believe that high fives are again in order.
They may get their chance. Rumour has it the Premier will visit the school for an official opening later this month.