AMHERST – The first day of school can be bitter-sweet for many, but at West Highlands Elementary it is in more ways than one.
You couldn’t have asked for better weather for the first day of school. Clear skies and a bright morning sun made for great back-to-school pictures. For some parents it’s their child’s first day at school ever, but for all of them it’s the first of lasts at the 100-year old school building. In January the students will move to a new $11 million school just a few blocks up the road from the old building.
“It feels great to be back but it’s with a lot of anticipation. There are many miles to go before we sleep,” school principal Kevin Mapplebeck said. “Everybody’s excited, though. Parents are excited. People in the community are excited. They ask me at the grocery store if the new school is on time.”
The present West Highlands Elementary has a lot of character – wood entries, pressed tin ceilings 15-feet overhead – but its vintage offers a lot of disadvantages. The gymnasium is on the top floor, so when its gym time everyone knows it. The school was also built about seven years before Nova Scotia introduced its first power commission in 1919, so its safe to say it wasn’t built with today’s technology in mind.
“We’re anxious to see how the new school affects student learning,” Mapplebeck said. “Just having the gym away from the learning area so it doesn’t sound noisy in the other classrooms is going to create a big difference.”
Mapplebeck acknowledges there will be mixed feelings when the present West Highlands Elementary closes, but the prospect of finishing the school year in a new school is exciting, and parents seem to agree with him.
“I think it will be a new opportunity for the kids,” Erica Nicherson said. “Hopefully there will be a cafeteria and a bigger gym.”
“I think it will be better,” Charles Tower said. “I hope there’s more space and more opportunity.”
With that, the first 8:30 a.m. buzzer at West Highlands went off – the first of the lasts. For the kids, however, it’s was the first and that’s good enough for now.