Revelstoke welcomed B.C. Minister of Education George Abbott to the grand opening ceremony of the new Revelstoke Secondary School on Nov. 9. Later that day, the new school opened its doors to the whole community, allowing many their first chance to have a look inside.
They marvelled at the bright, open spaces at the school and the many large windows that allow natural light inside. They admired the woodwork, including the large structural beams that hold the roof up in the gym and the two entrances, all the way down to the solid-wood locker doors.
RSS Principal Mike Hooker emceed the event, introducing Revelstoke Board of Education chairperson Alan Chell. Chell welcomed attendees at the formal morning ceremony in the gym. “On behalf of the Revelstoke School District, I would like to express our sincere appreciation and gratitude to the Province of British Columbia, the Ministry of Education and the Honourable Minister of Education George Abbott for your decision to invest in the future of our education system and the future of our community,” Chell said. He thanked superintendent Anne Cooper and district principal Earl Woodhurst for their dedicated work on the project. “[They] have lived and breathed this project for the past three years, and their vision, dedication and skilled work has been one of the key factors in us being able to open this magnificent new school today. Thank you Anne, thank you Earl.”
RSS student leadership council members Florina Beglinger and Jacob Wallach praised the many features of the new modern school. Beglinger loved the large windows that ushered in natural light and “amazing views that now can been seen due to huge windows… No other high school students can get a full view of six different mountains while simply going around the school everyday.”
And although it may look as if texting is the priority view, we do appreciate these sights and the community we are surrounded in in RSS,” she joked.
Superintendent Anne Cooper said she was grateful and fortunate to be part of the project, thanking many for their work on the team effort. “I think that Michelangelo said it best: ‘If you knew how much work went into it, you wouldn’t call it genius.’ But this school, the design, it is ingenious, whether it’s the use of the site, the integration with the community, the functionality of the spaces, the day-lit foyers, the day-lit classes, the use of wood, the many, many sustainable features of the school; it is a wonderful facility.”
Revelstoke Mayor David Raven said working together as a community to build the new school was a great example for youth. “One of the most … endearing contributions to the community has been the fact that we can work together [on] a cooperative and meaningful goal to strive for leadership and lifestyle for ourselves and our children as we [move] through into the future,” Raven said.
“By us coming together, but us working together, by us achieving this goal, we have shown the students that it can be done, and that we can all be friends as we go through this,” the mayor said.
B.C. education minister George Abbott praised the “remarkable school” saying he was “enormously impressed” by the result of the team effort. “Thank you and congratulations to what is one of the most remarkable education teams in the province of British Columbia. You are second to none in terms of academic achievement [and] graduation rates right across the board,” Abbott said. “That didn’t happened by accident.” Abbott praised the leadership of board chair Alan Chell and superintendent Anne Cooper. “The success is very much a product of the leadership of Alan and Anne.”
Abbott said the new school was certainly something to be proud of. “This building is gorgeous,” he said. “Love the wood, love the light, love the space.”
But Abbott also emphasized it was a team effort that has made the school and the school district a success. “Everyone in the school is a part of a great team here … Bricks and mortar are important, I acknowledge,” Abbott said. “But it is in fact the educational team inside the walls that really makes a difference.”
Following several other speakers, RSS Music Director Tessa Davis led the very talented and well-rehearsed Senior Band through a performance of Brick Street Encounter by Richard Saucedo. Davis sifted through hundreds of songs before choosing it for its “fanfarish” yet authentic qualities. A flute lament in the middle paid tribute to the old school, while the demanding percussion allowed the band to show off their brand-new percussion instruments.
Later the evening, community members toured through the school, checking out the shiny new spaces and catching up with their old high school teachers.
The new science labs are “perimeter” labs. The sinks and burners are located around the room and the moveable tables in the middle. Teacher Mr. Robinson explained the rooms were now configurable and there would be fewer stained and burned texts. “It just feels healthier,” he said of the new space.
Social studies and aboriginal education teacher Lissa Cancilla said the new school had ushered in “a real era of fun and pride.” Her students were very impressed and excited to be given something so nice and new. It feels healthier, she added. The natural light and a properly-functioning HVAC system made a world of difference. “None of us could stop looking out the window,” Cancilla said of her first few days overlooking the changing fall colours on the trees in Queen Elizabeth Park. “We get so much more light and the temperature really is where it should be.”
Art teacher René Terlinden also commented on the light, saying it made a huge difference from his old room lit by “the prison cell shafts from high up.” In the art room, it’s not only healthier, but will make a difference in the students’ works. In with the new means out with the old; the film camera darkroom got left behind at the old school. Terlinden shows me around, explaining how the new electronic gadgets work.
Just outside the school, the old facility has now been reduced to a pile of debris, revealing previously obscured views of the new elementary school under construction. It can’t be long before another school opening in Revelstoke.