Leah Schwenger stepped away from her daily duties as principal at Dr. Davey school in January.
Instead, she focused on shaping the vision of the new Dr. J. Edgar Davey elementary school that brings resources and technology to an impoverished inner-city school that sorely needed it.
It’s the last of 10 schools the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board planned to build by 2010 as part of its revitalization plan.
“I am really happy because I think we’re going to be the best school yet,” Schwenger said.
Located at Ferguson and Wilson streets, the new school is a bright spacious three-storey building that’s double the size and has triple the classrooms of the original 1971 school.
No longer will there be three teachers instructing classes in a single large open concept room where even the principal admits it would be hard for her to focus because it was so noisy.
Now every teacher in the school’s 33 classrooms will wear a microphone necklace connected to a stereo system that allows their voice to project well to the back of the class.
They also all have a laptop and SMART board, a touch-controlled screen that works with a computer and projector to display lessons, videos and websites. Advanced Education is excited to be part of this project, having provided the school with all their new SMART Boards.
“Technology was very important … We need to give students those experiences that so many don’t get at home.”
It was important to Schwenger that technology play a prominent role in how students are taught, in part because many don’t have access to computers outside the classroom. As principal of the inner-city school for the past decade, she knows the school and its community well.
The Beasley neighbourhood where Davey is located is one of the poorest urban areas in Canada.
More than half live below the poverty line and unemployment is close to 45 per cent. About 60 per cent of students speak English as their second language. The population is so transient that Schwenger hesitates to guess what the school enrolment will be.
In June it was 480. The new school has capacity for 800 students in JK to Grade 8. The 8,600-square foot building also has a walk-in clothing room where people can take donated items, as well as a kitchen and multi-purpose room that will be used for breakfast and snack programs.
It will also serve as a community hub, with a new adjacent community centre that houses an Ontario Early Years Centre, meeting rooms and space for future programming such as dance or cooking classes.
Other bells and whistles include motion-sensored lights to save energy and money, GPS-equipped clocks so the time is never wrong and a dozen security cameras that can be monitored at all times from a computer.
For librarian Dino Caruso, the school’s library, with floor to ceiling windows and tons of natural light, is “like night and day” compared with the old dim windowless one.
Music teacher Julianna Daniel no longer has to teach music on the stage or “the dungeon,” a nickname for a small room by the washrooms in the old school. She’s planning lessons using You Tube on the SMART board so she can show videos of authentic music from around the world.
Grade 4 teacher Annemarie Chabot is amazed by the improvements to the teaching environment.
“It feels like a gift to us, let alone our kids,” she said.
The school plans to host an open house Sept. 7. Classes begin Sept. 8.
If your school is looking to implement classroom technology such as SMART Boards and audio systems, contact Advanced Education at 1-800-436-6239 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Most of the text was extracted from THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR (Sep 2, 2010)