When students walk into the school for the first time today, it’s not the old jail cell design of cinder block classrooms on each side of a narrow hall.
Primary to Grade 12 students will walk into the village square where big plastic chess pieces wait to be moved on a Cartesian plane, next to stairs that will have multiplication tables painted into the risers, next to academic steps where students can take their Chromebooks to study, next to the circular library, under the railed in ‘Nest’ overlooking it all -- entry to which is gained by earning citizenship, academic, or athletic tokens.
The school is chock full of embedded learning. But not just that, it drips atmosphere -- motivates, invites, engages, begs interaction, but also offers solitude.
You would want to go to this school.
Off that village square are administration, the cafeteria, the big double gym, the stage, art, music culinary, and the hallways to the individual wings. There’s even a Romeo and Juliet balcony next to the stage and above the cafeteria.
The Primary to Grade 5 wing has a river running down the hallway with little oxbow lakes and art work stations for individuals, or groups, for presentations, and even an area for drying artwork.
The river isn’t real of course – it was carefully carved into the floor covering and represents the Annapolis River that’s just a stone’s throw from the school.
And there’s a garden on a roof accessed from the second level of the middle level / high school wing. Students can walk out the door and study ecosystems.
The school is a lot of things, but principal Bill Reid tries to narrow it down a bit. It’s a Primary to 12 school he calls ‘next generation.’ He’s shuns the terms ‘high tech’ and ‘school of the future.’
For Reid, it’s about teaching and the facility. That’s the truth for today. The facility facilitates.
Reid talks about something called LEED. That stands for Leaders in Engineering and Environmental Design. BRCS is one of those schools. For example, water from the roof goes into a cistern and flushes the toilets. There are fewer parking spaces, a thermal wall, the green roof, and even Fiberglas windowsills.
Reid said studies have proven that seven key physical factors of a facility can affect student success. The Bridgetown school takes all into account: natural light, temperature control, fresh air (lowering CO2 by opening windows), colour splash walls for visual reference, stimulation vs clutter, complexity vs monotony, and aesthetics vs common.
Reid is big on student collaboration with such things as common spaces, group workrooms, and meeting areas.
There are glass walls, there is art worked into one wall featuring the culture and history of the area including African Nova Scotian, Mi’kmaq, Acadian, communities, farming, and the Annapolis River.
Skilled trades and technology education boast that natural light with walls of windows. There’s a textile lab, culinary lab the Iron Chef would envy, and there are guidance and two support agency offices, and offices for Native Student Advisor and Student Support Worker – plus a youth health centre with a separate outside entrance.
In the high school wing there’s a student council office and a seminar room, group work rooms, and science labs.
And to get a little exercise, there’s an active transportation path from the old Bridgetown Regional High School that gives students the option of being dropped off and walking the last hundred metres to the front entrance.
The new school keeps the old BRHS colours of blue and white, but the team name changes to the Hawks. All the old banners will be hung in the new school.
BRCS replaces the 66-year-old Bridgetown Regional High School and the Bridgetown Regional Elementary School and comes in with a price tag that exceeds $20 million. Work towards today’s opening began about seven years ago with a meeting in Lawrencetown to discuss projected declining enrolments and options of sending students to other high school or revamping BRHS into a P-12 school. Ultimately the old building was not conducive to conversion and a new school was announced. Sod was turned in September of 2015.
(Editor’s Note: Reporter Lawrence Powell was given a tour of the new school by Principal Bill Reid the day before its opening.)