These students didn't have a cafeteria or a gym. Now they may have the coolest school in Quebec
Students are back at Metis Beach School after waiting two years for new building
Grade 11 student Nicolas Bélanger believes the view from the brand new cafeteria at Metis Beach School is the best in town.
The 80 or so students at the small English school in the Lower St. Lawrence region know how lucky they are — two years ago, they didn't even have a cafeteria, nor did they have a gym.
With the construction of the $10-million building, students from kindergarten to Secondary 5 are now getting used to a whole new learning environment.
For the past two years, students were being bused to a school 40 kilometres away in Sainte-Jeanne-d'Arc while their new school was taking shape, incorporating parts of the original building, built in 1929.
The space had grown too small for the number of students — teachers had to hold phys-ed classes outside, and lunch was eaten inside the classrooms.
Every spare inch was used to store learning materials and students' snowsuits and boots, because there weren't enough lockers.
"It's a complete transformation from where we were to where we are now," he said.
Students get their say
Mitchell said it took over a decade, and the input of the entire community, to secure the government funds needed for the reconstruction.
When it came time to design the school, he turned to those who would use it every day: students and teachers.
"I'm really lucky I've got amazing teachers who had this vision in their head of how they wanted an amazing classroom that was designed for student comfort," said Mitchell.
Grade 3 and 4 teacher Hélène Sim, a Metis Beach graduate herself, said having that variety seems to be making the students happier.
"They want to be in that classroom, they want to learn and they make the effort," said Sim, who is a fan of the large windows that let in tons of sunlight.
The bathroom situation was also a problem. With only two stalls for boys, there were 20-minute line-ups at times, such as when students were getting ready to go outside before gym class.
Not only are there enough bathrooms now, students asked to have gender-neutral bathrooms. Mitchell said the discussions started after American high school student Gavin Grimm sued his school board after he was barred from using the boy's bathroom in 2014.
"Our kids were mortified — they couldn't understand this. They said, 'How can you stop people from going to the bathroom?'" said Mitchell.
After a debate among students, they settled on private bathrooms that were gender neutral.
With retractable basketball hoops, soft flooring and bright lighting, it's one more reason for kids to be excited when they get on the school bus in the morning.
At least that's what Grade 5 student Eric Howard-Jones lets on.
"I get more [out of school] because I'm more excited for the lessons," he said.