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New public school opens its doors

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The new school year marks another new school opening for the Grande Prairie Public School District. Roy Bickell Public School in Royal Oaks will officially welcome roughly 200 K to 8 students Tuesday morning.

The school was one of three announced for the city back in October 2014. Superintendent Sandy McDonald says it’s an exciting time for both staff and students.

“They get an opportunity to help establish the rules right from the get-go, right off the start. Our principal Joanne Perrott is planning to work with students, with parents, and with staff to establish the culture of Roy Bickell.”

Bickell was a well known member of the Grande Prairie community, who made contributions to local history, education, business, community service and fossil collectons. McDonald says his legacy of generosity and hard work will be honoured in the school.

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“Opening a new school is a tremendous amount of extra work for staff, and it comes with a steep learning curve for students and parents because there is no history, but the opportunity to be part of something like that once in your career is a pretty special opportunity.”

The district has opened three schools in the last two years, with a total of 18 now running. Up next is the design work for the replacement of the Grande Prairie Composite High School. McDonald says that will be starting shortly.

“We’re going to get a chance for the principal Mr. Vobeyda and his staff to have a lot of input. Our students and parents and the community and, of course, our board of trustees all have lots of great ideas to share about what this high school might look like in the future.”

The district has already finished judging RFPs for the design, but the result is not yet public.

Also new this year is full-day Fridays. Students will no longer be dismissed at noon every Friday and one or two Fridays a month will then be used as non-instructional days for teachers’ professional development.

“The feedback we’ve gotten from parents so far has been that they welcome the change,” says McDonald. “Their schedule’s a bit easier to arrange for daycare and those sorts of things. What we’re excited about is finding a new way to ensure our teachers get that support and the ability to work together.”

That decision by the school board was accompanied by the lowering of the distance for students to qualify for free bussing. All Early Childhood Services to grade three students who live 1.7 kilometres or more from their school won’t have to pay. The limit was formerly 2.4 kilometres, and it will stay that way for students in grades four to 12.

While it’s still too early to peg enrolment for the 2017/2018 school year, McDonald says they saw more students registered over the summer than usual.

“We’re cautiously optimistic. Enrolment is something we watch closely over the month of September, but the leading indicators… both look kind of positive right now.”

Anyone who hasn’t registered or who has questions about the upcoming school year is encouraged to reach out ASAP.

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