With a month under his belt as principal for École Discovery Trails, Morden's new school is set to open in September, Samuel Jerema has hit the ground running.
"The first thing I started doing on January 8th was calling other colleagues of mine across the province, talking to principals that have recently undertaken the same sort of project, opening a new school in their respective school divisions. So, I've visited schools in Winnipeg, in Winkler and in Brandon. And I've met with principals, and they've toured me around their new schools and talked to me about their process."
Every school division tailors their administration process to the needs of their community, according to Jerema.
"Stephen Ross has been also meeting with the principals now at Maple Leaf, at Minnewasta, and at École Morden Middle School (EMMS) to look at what their staffing looks like, because every school is sort of adjusting, and a lot of students are moving to École Discovery Trails from our three k-8 schools. We're trying to figure out what's the best complement of staff at each school, looking at who do we have at École Discovery Trails, and what kind of positions we still need to hire for."
Kindergarten registration took place in January, and people are encouraged to enroll their students as soon as possible to help with preparation.
Jerema noted projections are part of the process for deciding who will attend the new school, for a couple reasons.
"The projections keep going up for École Discovery Trails each year, one reason being, we're adding a grade seven group, and then we're going to add a grade eight group also, because that area of the city there's a lot of development opportunities for housing. There should be a lot of growth in that catchment area that will impact enrollment."
Staffing should be in place by spring break, for the most part, as the French Immersion program is moving from Maple Leaf and EMMS, making it a dual track English and French school. Jerema is also working on programming such as Band, Industrial Arts and Human Ecology, which includes Textiles and Clothing, Foods and Nutrition, and Family Studies Programming. Right now, he is making sure all the signage on each space in the building in spelled correctly in both languages.
At the time of the interview, Jerema had one tour of the construction site in December, but soon on his list of things to do was to get an update on the construction process. He gave a brief update on what is happening now.
"Everything's on target, and on track right now. There haven't been any setbacks. If you go to our website, you can see some of the pictures, and what I actually appreciate is some of the pictures have been taken of the same spots each time they've gone back, and you can see the stairwell being put in. And then now, there's paint on some of the walls. There's a lot of walls that have been primed. If you look at some of the photos on the website, you'll see the construction progress and the walls are primed, but kind of just bare cinder block at a certain height, and so my understanding is that the drop ceiling is going to be in there. There's a lot of HVAC and electrical conduits and cables that are going to run in the ceiling. So, you can kind of see where the ceiling is going to be because of where they stopped painting the cinder blocks too. The roof's on, the windows are in. It seems like they're moving quite quickly. If you see it, there's a lot of work to do, but we're still months away before we're looking at a possession in August."
He feels fortunate to have senior administration support as he goes through this process, and can talk to the architects when needed to. He looks forward to when staffing is in place to work collaboratively on building school culture and more.
He noted there will be many changes to all schools from staffing to student catchment areas and programming.
"When you look at the site plan, you think about what this school means to the community that has eight portable classrooms at Maple Leaf, six at Minnewasta, another handful at the EMMS and just the amount of kids that are outside of schools like they're in portable classrooms, but they're really not in the school building."
Meantime, preparations are also being made for the new rubberized track and soccer field which will be for the whole division.
"It's really going to be state-of-the-art, and it's going to be an opportunity to really grow athletics in the community, but also just fitness and lifelong love of healthy lifestyles. It'll be a great place for the community, but also for our students, and not just École Discovery Trails. This is a divisional school. This is a site that's going to have a major impact on our community, and the opportunities we're able to afford to our children."