BLOG| High River students return to school with flood memories

When students return to High River schools, the June flood will very much be on everyone's mind.
A huge pile of backpacks stuffed with school supplies await returning students in High River. (Amanda Pawlitzki)

High River residents Angela Piovesana and Amanda Pawlitzki are blogging about their experiences during and after the floods that hit southern Alberta.

They'll tell stories of the recovery through the eyes of people who live there.

With everything that has recently happened, it's hard to believe High River's children are going back to school.

Classes ended abruptly on June 20 without proper goodbyes. The graduating students from Highwood High School, whose ceremonies were cancelled by the flood, only recently got their day in the sun.

Grae hugs her teacher, Mrs. Barton, on the first day of kindergarten last fall. (Amanda Pawlitzki)

Today, as most public school students and some Catholic students return to school, everyone is remembering June 20.

Daughter watched rising water from school bus

My daughter Grae is almost seven. On June 20, her Grade 1 class and their teacher Mrs. Barton were looking forward to a field trip.

"My whole class was so, so excited to go to my friend's farm for a field trip. But then Mrs.Barton said we had to go the gym and I got scared because no one said what was going on. She said we had to get on a bus and go somewhere besides the farm. We saw water rising once we were on the busses and I saw my mom running down the street and I was banging on the window for her," Grae recalls.

Grae was very shaken up and as the days followed, she became upset that Grade 1 was abruptly over.

When I asked Grae if she is nervous or excited about starting Grade 2 and going back to Spitzee Elementary School, her response is both. She is excited to see her old classmates and see her beloved Mrs. Barton that she has missed so much over the summer. She's also happy to start Grade 2 with her new teacher Mrs. King.

But she is nervous about the basement of the school, which flooded. And she is worried another flood might happen, yet knows she is safe and her teachers and parents would protect her again.

Her old teacher, Mrs. Barton, shares Grae's excitement about seeing her former class again.

"[In] just over 15 minutes we evacuated over 450 kids and did not expect that school would be over for the year. I wrote my kids from last year a note on my board. As I was packing up their things, I was thinking of each one of them and how much I loved them and what an awesome class they are. They are still my class till they move on," she said.

My son Gage is four years old and this is his first year of preschool. His classroom was destroyed in the flood as it was in the basement of Spitzee Elementary School's heritage wing. He won't start until Sept. 16 and his class is moving into the school's music room. 

Gage is also worried it may flood again, but says he can’t wait to paint, play and – of course – to have snacks.

Free backpacks for students

The High River and District Parent Link Centre hosts a carnival every year in August and offer school supplies for families in need.

"Usually we have about 135 backpacks that we fill for families in need," said Michelle Kessel, the program facilitator. "This year, every family is in need. We are handing out backpacks to every child in pre-K to Grade 12 in High River …we already have 1,800 kids registered."

Donations from local businesses and from across the country have been overwhelming and no kid will go without. High River families can still register for a backpack by calling 403-652-8633 or emailing

"Everyone was affected by this disaster in some capacity, either their home or work – sometimes both. Please register your children and take some stress off," said Kessel.