COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN
Sydnee Toms is all smiles on her first day of school, Wednesday afternoon at J.R. Reid. The first official day of the new school year began yesterday for secondary as well as college and university students.
As parents walked hand-in-hand with their children up the steps of École Harrison Wednesday morning, many were feeling mixed emotions as they dropped off their youngsters for their first day back to school.
"It’s ambivalence," Shannon Ewasiuk said as she brought her first-grade daughter Claira Stitt to school. "I mean, we had a wonderful summer, it would be nice to have her stay at home."
With two younger sisters still at home, Claira is the first to attend school.
"This will be her first year of full days, so it will be a big change in our lives," Ewasiuk said.
Jeff Werbowski walked with his two daughters — Jaidyn, who started Grade 8, and Sophie, who started Grade 2.
"It’s really exciting," Werbowski said.
Sophie said she was feeling nervous, while Jaidyn was more excited to see her friends.
Tracey Walker dropped off her two nieces — Maci Hlady (Grade 2) and Mya Hlady (Grade 5). Visiting from overseas, Walker stayed in Brandon a little longer to accompany the children to school.
"I’m here from England, so I stayed for the first day to drop them off at school," Walker said. "It’s very exciting."
Mya said she was most looking forward to art and gym classes, but was also feeling the first-day jitters.
"I’m nervous and excited," she said.
École Harrison will welcome nearly 340 students this year. It became a single-track French immersion school back in 2010, when 300 students transferred to Harrison from École New Era School.
Principal Craig Laluk said embarking on a new school year is just as exciting for staff as it is for students.
"It’s a very exciting time of year for our families and for us, just to re-engage with the kids and really focus in on our learning for the next 10 months," he said.
The focus of the first few days back to school is making sure the children feel comfortable and safe, Laluk said.
"Helping them re-engage with the French language for us is really important," he said. "We know it may not necessarily come back as quickly for some, but when they’re immersed in the environment then it’ll be a lot easier for them."
Gym teacher Bernie Perreaux welcomed the children and parents as they arrived Wednesday morning.
"A new year is very exciting," he said. "Kids are always happy to come back to school, come back and see their friends … it’s a great time of the year."
Brandon School Division expects to see close to 8,500 students enrolled this school year. That’s up approximately 230 students from this time last year.
"We are a growing school division … it keeps getting bigger and bigger and more diverse," said Supt. Donna Michaels.
Students across the division will be completing the "Tell Them From Me" Student Voice Survey. While this is the fourth year for the survey, it will be expanded to all students in Grade 7 and up.
"The main focus is to look at student engagement and learning, and bullying is a component of it," Michaels said. "It’s really important for us that we know what our students think about their engagement in learning, what helps them learn, what doesn’t help them learn and what would better help them learn."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 5, 2013