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Growing & Thriving: Fort McMurray Public School District

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At the end of a successful 2016-17 school year, Fort McMurray Public School District has (FMPSD) so much to celebrate. From students who excelled in robotics, arts, coding, science fairs, sports, to outstanding staff who are dedicated to our students, FMPSD is proud of its family. We are looking forward to an even brighter 2017-18. The new academic year will see Dave McNeilly Public, our newest school open; Christina Gordon moving to its building on Parsons Creek Drive, École McTavish High School construction continuing, and Fort McMurray Composite High School modernization in full swing.

Dave McNeilly Public School

Parsons Creek North’s new jewel, Dave McNeilly Public School will be open for the first day of school on September 5. The ECDP (Early Childhood Development Program) to grade 6 school is located on 431 Callen Drive. Bussing will be available. Roxanne Fudge is the Principal of the school, and looking forward to opening the doors.

“Our parents and students are excited to get into our beautiful school. Tours are encouraged at the end of August. We anticipate a very busy September of settling into our new school and building community connections,” Fudge notes.

“It is our hope that all families in Parsons Creek North will embrace the school as their own and join us in making it a great place to learn and grow. We encourage parents to get involved early to ensure that our school community benefits from our collective expertise. We welcome our parents’  input and presence,” says Fudge, who has a dual portfolio for 2017-18. She will also remain the principal for Frank Spragins High School, our community’s only outreach school.

Dave McNeilly offers versatile programming. Perennial favourite “The Leader in Me,” which fosters leadership in every student will be a highlight. After-school Tech Trades Academy featuring coding, robotics, multimedia and engineering streams, and a lot more is on the agenda.

“We are committed to building a learning community that challenges our students to achieve to a high standard. By utilizing “The Leader in Me” program, we are building a community of leaders. Partnering with the University of Calgary Werklund School of Education, we will be offering programming inspired by the Galileo philosophy for enrichment, assessment and instruction,” explains Fudge, who has been with the District since 1999.

“Our school is a beautiful facility filled with natural light and phenomenal learning spaces. Dave McNeilly students will benefit from an experienced group of growth minded educators who are designing learning to be challenging and engaging,” adds Fudge.


Christina Gordon Public School

It took a year’s delay, but Christina Gordon Public School is ready for students and staff as you read this. It was operating as of last September as a school within a school at Timberlea Public. Located on Parsons Creek Drive, the school’s construction was delayed due to wildfires. Rick Thorne, Principal, Christina Gordon is excited to welcome families. He takes us for a tour.

“Anyone entering the school will feel welcome and will sense right away that it is a place where people are happy to be, and where children are having fun. The school is bright and open with  lots of common space for people to get together and learn,” explains Thorne, who has been with the District for nine years.

“Environmental stewardship is evident in the recycling stations distributed throughout the school and the bottle filling stations. Students are given the opportunity to learn how they learn best, inside and outside the classrooms. Classrooms all have plenty of flexible seating options to align with learning styles,” he added.

 An homage to modern technology, Christina Gordon will have a few classrooms set up as Google Classrooms, which will allow teachers to create, distribute and grade assignments digitally.

“The most up to date technology is evident and all students have access to iPADS and Chromebooks. The youngest students are exposed to the most updated  technology through coding and Robotics even in our Junior Tech club, along with our Tech and Trades academy for grades 4-6,” continued Thorne.

Christina Gordon also boasts a before and after-school care program provided by Horizon Out of School Care from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. This provides parents of children as young as ECDP age to have their little ones well-cared for outside the school day at Christina Gordon.

“The Leader in Me,” will be offered at the school along with a vibrant extracurricular program with options for students of all ages. Clubs include everything from athletics to technology to fine arts as well as games and knitting. More than 20 such clubs already exist in year one.

 As for September, Thorne noted, the idea is to keep the transition smooth for students and parents alike.

“September will be a very exciting time for Christina Gordon, as we move into our new space.  There will be lots of activities around the move culminating with our official opening ceremony on October 2. When the students arrive on the first day of school, everything will be in place and ready to go.  Care will be given to ensure that the transition will be easy and comfortable for students, parents and staff. To further ease the transition,  prior to the opening, there will be opportunities in August for students to visit and see their new school, classroom and meet their teachers,” Thorne added.


École McTavish

During his 20-year career with FMPSD, Scott Barr, Principal, École McTavish Junior High School has seen the District grow exponentially. He was at the helm when the junior high was built in 2011, and now as it grows into a high school.

The sod-turning ceremony for the high school wing happened on May 26, 2017. Minister of Education, the Honourable David Eggen was on hand, along with MLA Tany Yao, Councillor Tyran Ault as well as FMPSD trustees and senior leaders.

Barr shares on what the new high school wing will entail, which will take about 19 months to complete.

“The new high school addition will be home to many amazing option possibilities for our students ranging from welding, small engine repair, robotics and coding, medical sciences, cosmetology, and video animation to list a few.”

“The facilities will be cutting edge and allow students to work with similar equipment to what they will in the workforce later in life - a unique chance to try their hand at an area of interest. So if they want to be a chef, there is a chance to try that out, or they want to be a TV host, we have a studio to tape broadcasts. If they want to be a musician, we will have a recording studio for them to tape and edit demos. We will also have a cutting edge learning commons for students to work, which will feature furniture that allows for both charging of portable devices and downloading of needed resources like textbooks or library books. We will be getting our students future-ready each and everyday they set foot in the building,” he added.

With the facilities come exciting programs, and the chance to continue to develop successful programming already in place.

“Now we get our students for six years, and we will be able to develop on top of what is already a very strong performing arts program, foods program, as well as the work done in the woods options. We are also really looking forward to the opportunity to have the older students act as mentors in subjects throughout the school. It will be a great way to expand our Marauder family and allow those older students to continue to develop their leadership skills with the grade 7-9 students,” Barr noted.

While the first day of school will still see the school under construction, efforts have been made to reduce student disruption. The east wings of the existing school will continue to hold the junior high students, and the west addition will house the new high school students. All shared spaces will be in the centre of the finished school. In an effort to reduce the carbon footprint, the new high school wing will also have solar panels, which is in direct alignment with Fort McMurray Public School District’s green focus.

“There will be quite a bit of construction around the building. The good thing is that the impact on the daily running of the junior high will not be very large. We have already moved the music room, art room, and library this year and students were working in those new rooms before summer break. Their old locations have been moved due to upgrades coming in the high school and we needed to let the construction crew create the new spaces. We look forward to having the building of the high school become a normal part of our day and watch as the excitement grows for the opening,” he continued.

A new high school in the works also means the responsibility of developing new programming. Barr and his team are already looking forward to it.

“Our long-term goal is to continue to offer current amazing programming and grow to include the same thing at the high school age group with additional options, credits, work experience, RAP (Registered Apprenticeship Program) and so much more available at high school.

We will need to get that groundwork completed prior to opening, so we will be doing all of this that in the next year-and-a-half. We are all very excited to be so close to having our first Marauder graduates,” Barr said.


Fort McMurray Composite High School

Modernization Project

Slated for completion in the fall of 2018, the Fort McMurray Composite High School modernization project is well on its way. When the school was built in 1978, the architectural style did not allow for student gathering areas or natural sunlight in many sections. Only five classrooms in the building had natural light, both elements inspired the project. Principal Kevin Bergen explains.

“The modernization project focused on the abovementioned two areas to upgrade. There will be two new clerestory (atrium) portions when the building is completed. A major one at the front entrance, and another smaller one near the rear of the building. These areas will provide both natural light, and gathering/flex areas for students. Along with upgraded CTS

equipment and facilities, classrooms, main office and mechanical equipment will also see major modernization. We will enjoy a new Student Services area, new front visitor parking and bus lane, as well as a completely new exterior and roof,” explains Bergen, who joined the District in 2011.

Along with the new building, there is new programming coming to the school this fall.

“We are excited to begin offering Guitar at the junior and senior high level. In partnership with our neighbouring radio station The Bridge 91.1, we are installing a new recording studio for student and community use. We are also beginning a high school Firefighting and Fire Rescue course next year, in collaboration with Wood Buffalo Emergency Services. One of our great programs, Broadcasting, will expand to include a production partnership with Shaw TV Fort McMurray. Students will be able to obtain credits and experience producing and broadcasting with our local and regional Shaw Community programming.”

A new name is also in the plans for the high school in the short-term. Bergen shares the school’s long-term plans.

“We hope to grow the school to the 700-800 student number, allowing us to build stronger programs, broad-based learning opportunities, and great athletics and fine arts programs. We also expect to create stronger partnerships with Keyano College, Shaw TV and Wood Buffalo Emergency Services,” he adds.


Greely Road Public School Kindergarten

Full STEAM Ahead

They ran to the robots. That pretty much sums up Greely Road Public School Kindergarten’s reaction. About a dozen students got a sneak peek of the said robots - a first in Fort McMurray for Kindergarten. Greely Road Public School is going full STEAM ahead with its 2017-18 programming. STEAM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics, which will be front and centre in Kindergarten starting this September.

STEAM Kindergarten will have programs infused with lessons and activities, which involve all five areas mentioned above. In addition to working on numeracy and literacy skills, the STEAM program will offer students opportunities to develop their creative talents via the arts. Coding, 3D printing and more is also in the line-up.

“Kindergarten students will also be introduced to science and technology concepts using various software programs. Some of these programs that are currently being explored include Beebot, Osmo, and Dot n Dash.  Students will also have the opportunity to create a variety of educationally-related materials using a 3D printer. There are only a few such programs in Alberta and Greely Road School is the only one to offer it in Fort McMurray,” notes Brian Mullally, Principal, Greely Road Public School.

Samantha Quarterman will be teaching STEAM Kindergarten. She is looking forward to new tools like Beebot, which is an early start to coding. Osmo, which uses iPAD for learning Math and literacy.

“Our students grasp all this super quick. These programs are designed for their age, but to also learn at their own pace. They can shape their learning according to their ability as they go. We will have literacy and numeracy come to life next year with a 3D printer. For example, they’ll learn the letter K and then build it in the 3D printer, watching the formation happen. It takes learning to a whole new level,” explains Quarterman, who has been with Greely Road for over two years.

As for the “Arts” portion of the STEAM program, she says, incorporating arts is important.

“Arts form the model and basis for early learning programs. We can add elements of dramatic play, or music to student learning. Dot n Dash, which is a robot, has a xylophone attachment, which helps kids compose and record songs, as well as present to the class. Students are in for lots of fun this fall,” she adds.


Christian School Moving to Timberlea Public

The Fort McMurray Christian School joined the Fort McMurray Public School District in 2006. Home to the only ECDP (Early Childhood Development Program) to grade 9 school in Fort McMurray, this September the school will be moving from its Birchwood YMCA location in Thickwood to Timberlea Public School located on 107 Brett Drive.

Christian School is home to over 220 students. It is affiliated with the Fort McMurray Christian Society.

“We have been at our current location for the last 17 years. As we grow, it was time to move. We will continue to offer dynamic programming such as PEAK Ski and Fitness Academy, Fine Arts, Tech-Trades Academy with a pre-engineering and multimedia stream and so much more,” explains Joe Champion, Principal, Christian School.

The school will be offering PEAK Volleyball program for grades 4-6 in 2017-18.  Additional programming is also being planned that is “unique to a Christian alternative program in the 21st century,” he notes.

“We are free to express our faith at our school, which has students from over 12 different Christian faith communities. Our families are representative of over 30 different nationalities and each year we celebrate this diversity at our annual Spring Art & Culture Night. We are also excited to move to the Timberlea location as the expanded space will allow us the opportunity to enhance CTF (Career and Technology Foundations) options for our junior high students,” Champion says.

Doug Nicholls, Superintendent, FMPSD, is enthusiastically looking forward to the new academic year.

“Despite last year’s challenging circumstances, we had an incredible 2016-17. We are proud of our students, and staff, who displayed amazing resilience. Thank you to our parents, caregivers, volunteers and the community for being strong together. September holds an incredible amount of great things to look forward to. We are growing, forging community partnerships to benefit students; and making our school system stronger.”


Doing What’s Best for Kids at the Fort McMurray Public School District. To register, or for more information on any of our 16 schools, visit: For real time updates: follow us on Twitter: @FMPSD @DougNicholls2 and like us on Facebook: Fort McMurray Public School District.


Photos by Greg Halinda Photography



Kiran is a national award-winning communications specialist, freelance journalist, and social media consultant. She loves telling community stories, and is a strong advocate for inclusion, diversity, women’s rights, and multiculturalism. Got story ideas? Contact her via Twitter: @KiranMK0822.