The switch – First Avenue and Mutchmor schools
By Jane G., Jasmine C. and Ben T.
Reality is sinking in as Mutchmor Public School and First Avenue Public School begin the official countdown for the big switch in September 2015. During the spring of 2015 staff of each school will begin the huge task of switching buildings. This is happening almost five years after the school board first identified the issue of overcrowding at First Avenue P.S.
Throughout 2010 and 2011 the Ottawa Carleton District School Board’s Area Review Committee inspected all of the schools in the neighbourhood. The inspection was running along quite smoothly until they were faced with a dilemma as they quickly recognized that the increasing student population enrolled at First Avenue due to its Early French Immersion Program meant that it was steadily outgrowing its building. On the other hand, Mutchmor’s population, centred on the English/Core French program, has remained stable for the last few years. The committee considered many different solutions but after many meetings and consultations with the public, they elected to choose the plan to renovate the building at Mutchmor’s site and then to have the two schools switch their staff and student populations. Mutchmor’s stable population seemed to be well suited for the space available in the First Ave school building, while the larger space at Mutchmor seemed to be a good fit for the larger and growing First Avenue population.
The principals of the two schools anticipate the thrill of the move and change of scenery, but acknowledge that they have their work cut out for them. Both principals are working together along with the added support of the public and newly established school committees to help create a smooth transition.
“I am nervously excited,” said First Avenue principal Isabelle Flannigan. “The move will require a lot of effort as equipment, books and other materials will need to be transported to the other site in both schools.”
Mutchmor principal Jennifer Nutt agrees and feels confident that it will be a positive experience and that both school populations will enjoy their additional space.
Many students expressed some sadness in leaving their school but look forward to settling into their respective new buildings. The current First Avenue students are excited about the prospect of having two gyms and more space at Mutchmor. Along with that there are some new additions, for example, solar panels on the roof and some more grass space in the yard, including an improved field area. The current Mutchmor students will enjoy a new primary play structure after the move to First Avenue, as well as close proximity to the canal.
Teachers also expressed feelings of excitement and possibility. “The people in the building create its character more than the building itself,” states Grade 6 teacher Tracy Smith, who has been at First Avenue for a number of years. “It does not matter where we are but who we are.” Longtime First Avenue kindergarten teacher Denise Logan adds, “The only constant thing in life is change.” Mme Logan adds that there will be some attempt to maintain some of the First Avenue traditions and culture even after the move to the other site. At the same time, the switch will mean a fresh start and the creation of new history that nobody can as yet predict.
During the last two years, the staff and students at Mutchmor demonstrated great perseverance in the face of construction throughout the school year as sections of the school were renovated. In the end the renovations resulted in the installation of spectacular south-facing windows and the beautiful bricks fit nicely with the older historic original building.
The switch was initially scheduled to take place in September 2014 but there were delays in the construction at Mutchmor. The school board decided to delay the switch by one full academic year to minimize the disruption that would have resulted from a move during the academic year. Luckily the students of Mutchmor don’t have to wait for any construction at First Avenue as the school is ready to welcome the new students and staff from the other building.
This is just the latest chapter in the long history of these two celebrated schools, both of which are more than one hundred years old. There will be many upcoming celebrations and events marking the switch as the two schools recreate themselves in their new buildings.
Student reporters Jane G., Jasmine C. and Ben T. are Grade 6 students at First Avenue Public School who are following plans for the move to Mutchmor next year with interest.