Earl Grey School is moving forward into the future one step at a time, while paying tribute to the past.
In 2012, the school’s parent advisory council organized Phase 1 of a beautification project that saw new walkways in front of the school. This summer, the president of the council, Darryl Balasko, hopes to see Phase 2 complete, this one an outdoor classroom and garden. Spring 2015 will be the 100th anniversary celebration of the opening of Earl Grey School in Fort Rouge.
"We’re hoping to make it very open to the community, so different events can take place there and kids can do some learning in an environment other than the four walls of their classroom," school principal Gail Singer said. "With taking learning outside there are more things to do, and use the outdoors as part of learning with the weather vane and garden."
The outdoor learning environment can help all students at the Nursery to Grade 8 school.
Singer said every year, the school includes nature and the environment as part of each grade’s curriculum.
"On our latest drawings we have such things as weather vanes and wind socks, so we can have some outdoor learning opportunities for the children as well," Balasko said. "As well, get them involved with some of the planting that goes into the flower beds, that gets them outside as well."
The first phase of the beautification project features cobblestone walkways and a new garden in front of the school, facing Cockburn Street North. It cost $35,000 to complete. The second phase’s outdoor classroom, flower beds, tyndall stone sitting blocks, and weather station (including wind socks and a weather vane) will cost approximately $58,000, Balasko said.
To raise the funds, Balasko said the parent advisory council has held numerous fundraisers with and without the school, as well as applied for grants.
"Coun. Jenny Gerbasi (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry) said she would support our community incentive grant (application), so I dropped that off to her a couple of weeks ago," Balasko said.
On the evening of Feb. 4, after he’d spoken to The Sou’wester, the community incentive grant application, requesting $17,500, was passed by the City Centre community committee.
Since starting as principal of the school in 1985, Singer has seen the school go through some changes. She said the beautification project is by far the best of those changes.
"I think whatever we do to continue to improve the school both inside and outside helps the sense of pride of students going to Earl Grey School," Singer said. "It’s really for the whole community, it’s not just for the students of the school."
Balasko hopes all the construction on the project will be complete this summer.
Singer said they aren’t sure how they will celebrate the school’s 100th birthday with current students yet, but for the adults, a wine and cheese evening are in the works and a banquet hall has been booked for an event on May 15, 2015.
"We’d really like to get Neil Young here," Singer laughed. "He used to go here. So if anyone has any contacts that would be great."