New school’s first day; Dignitaries, students cut ribbon on Athabasca’s new Edwin Parr Composite School at grand opening ceremony Oct. 23

“Edwin Parr Composite School is a state-of-the-art school that will inspire students to excel and provide the opportunities to discover and explore their interests,” [Piquette]  said.

Athabasca Advocate, Tue Oct 30 2018
Byline: Allendria Brunjes
Source: Athabasca Advocate

After years of planning, scrapping, reworking and building, the new Edwin Parr Composite School is officially open for staff and students. On Oct. 23, staff, students and local dignitaries cut the ribbon for the new institution, celebrating with drumming, dancing, speeches and cake. Former Aspen View Public Schools superintendent Mark Francis was on hand for the celebrations, and he said the school was not only being built for the students there right now, but for generations. “In fact, what will happen is that some of the kids sitting here today, they will have kids that will attend here, and then they will have grandchildren that will attend here,” he said. “We build schools not for today, but for generations.”

Board chair Dennis MacNeil joked that his tie featured the pattern of a finish line. “It’s nice to be at the finish line,” he said. “We’re here. Finally, it’s here. This is the day we’ve all been waiting for, after all these years of planning, dreaming and building. Edwin Parr Composite School is now ours, and it belongs to you – the students of the town. It belongs to the staff; it belongs to the community.”

Athabasca-Sturgeon-Redwater MLA Colin Piquette noted that EPC is the first new school in Alberta with solar panels. “Edwin Parr Composite School is a state-of-the-art school that will inspire students to excel and provide the opportunities to discover and explore their interests,” he said.

Former teacher and Athabasca County Reeve Larry Armfelt said he has had 46 first-days-of-school. He said he could not help but wish students the best in their educations.

“And I want to thank Mr. MacNeil and the board of education for, in my opinion – if I can make an analogy, and I said it to Mr. MacNeil this morning – thank you for having the tenacity of a Sherpa guide to make this happen.” Francis, who is now the deputy superintendent of the Parkland School Division based in Stony Plain, said he is building schools all over the place in his new job. “Let me tell you – none of the schools we are building or have opened come close to this building,” he said. “One of the previous speakers said this building is one-of-akind and there will never be another like it. I fully intend to steal from this building.”

Elder Elsie Paul has worked with Aspen View Public Schools for about 10 years. Introducing her, Grade 12 student Ethan Woodward said she has been working with the Land-Based Learning program. “I’m so inspired by these little Elders, the drummer and the jigger,” she said, referring to performers who opened the ceremony. “Because all you young people are our Elders.”

Marie Burrard is Edwin Parr’s niece, and she was at the grand opening ceremony. She said Parr believed all children should get the best education schools could offer. “Today marks a milestone in the history of education,” she said. “Why Edwin Parr? He was a school trustee starting in 1925. He was one of five in the formation of the Athabasca School Division. This was in time to be what is now Aspen View School Division.”

Piquette also noted during his speech that the new school was not without controversy as it was being built. After the ceremony, Piquette said there had been concerns that location was not a coincidence, but after going through records of the process available through Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure, as well as meeting with the Town of Athabasca, Athabasca County and school board, he believes due diligence was done. “The numbers did make sense, and the location makes a lot of sense, as well,” he said, noting that some of the issues have already been addressed, like upgrading the intersection at the bottom of University Drive. “I think it’s a great day for Athabasca.” He said it was indeed a complicated arrangement requiring land transfers, Orders in Council. He said going through that, he became convinced that the school project made a lot of sense for the community. “There’s going to be a segment of the community that either is still convinced that we didn’t need a new school or that it should have been built in a different location,” Piquette said. “But from what I can tell, it seems like the majority of the community has come around to the new school in its present location.”

Francis said the project did have its fair share of challenges, and it did take a long time. “Like MLA Piquette said, it was worth the debate,” Francis said. “It was worth the wait, and it was worth the challenges, because today we have a spectacular building.”

 

 

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