Trust the Village

March 10, 2022

I visited the temporary Upper Sumas Elementary site this week to see how the staff and students were adjusting to their “new” environment (For those of you who have been around as long as I have been, this was the old Abby Elementary School site). As I approached the front doors, I saw a class of students standing in circle in a little garden patch. I made eye contact with the teacher, Ms. Marr, who invited me to join their circle. She told me that they had just finished sharing what they were grateful for and invited me to do the same. Two thoughts immediately came to mind, so I shared both. Firstly, I was grateful to be invited to be in their company, knowing that they were doing well enough to be expressing their gratitude. Secondly, I shared that I was grateful that they would be able to return to their school after Spring Break. Their eyes lit up over their masks, as I told them of the tremendous progress our district's Facilities Department had been making with repairing their school after the devastating flood damage from November.

I spent the rest of my visit walking through the old classrooms and through the cavernous spaces in the basement. I had first visited the site on the heels of the flood when we were exploring options for relocating the staff and students. If you can believe it, the school was being used as a movie set. They had prepped two of the classrooms to film classroom scenes for a TV show whose name did not ring a bell. While the rest of the school seemed “okay” at the time it certainly did not look like a place that would comfortably receive the staff and students who had just endured a tumultuous departure from their home school. Most of the facing of the classrooms had been removed. The place was musty and there was no internet connectivity.  Despite this, our Facilities Crew and IT Department went to work over the Christmas Break and managed to turn the place into a welcoming school space. It was not perfect, but it was home.

Fast forward a few weeks, and some of these very same people have been hard at work restoring the Upper Sumas site to its former glory…and better. For those who haven't been in the school, you cannot imagine the damage of water levels that rose above a meter on the ground floor. Staff had very little time to gather their belongings and have not been back since. All the rooms, as well as the gym, had to be stripped to the studs. Lighting, flooring, and millwork had to be redone. The change, speed and care with which it has been accomplished is truly amazing.

I have commented often that one of the things I appreciate about working in this district is the “CAN DO” spirit that we embody. We just have a way of getting it done when needed most. We know that our kids are counting on us, and we rise to the occasion. This has been truly manifested in the manner which our Facilities Department has risen to the occasion to repair Upper Sumas Elementary. The before and after pictures only tell part of the story, and do not show the time, care and commitment that comes with this effort. We all know that there is truth in the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, and it’s really cool when you see that play out right before our eyes.

Superintendent of Schools