Schools have filled up once more as summer comes to an end and a new school year begins.
Lethbridge School Division superintendent Mike Nightingale on Tuesday said everyone is welcome back and encouraged people to be involved with their schools.
“We want you to know that everybody is welcome in our schools. My encouragement would be to just make sure you take the opportunity to enjoy as much of a school experience as you can and connect, be involved in your school, and make sure that you're connecting with friends,” said Nightingale.
Nightingale mentioned the growth of schools on the west side and his excitement for the new elementary school anticipated to be built at Gary Station.
“We've had lots of growth on the west side. And it certainly is very timely to get that new school. The opportunity to open a new school is something that I think is really exciting, not only for the school division but also for the communities that we serve.”
Nightingale noted this year, the Lethbridge School Division is expecting there to be more than 12,000 students enrolled. In the coming month, they will know the exact numbers recorded of students.
Allison Purcell, board chair with Lethbridge School Division, welcomed Nightingale as the new superintendent and talked about the new administrators throughout the school division.
“It's great to have students back in the school. This year, we are starting with a new superintendent, Mike Nightingale. It's great for us to welcome Mike to our school division.
“And then across our division that you'll notice that a number of our schools have new administrators, just with some movement going on. There's always changed for our staff, as well as for our students as they enter the new school year,” said Purcell.
Nightingale said Lethbridge is fortunate in having the best teacher education program at the university, which helps with keeping up with demand for more teachers.
“We're in the fortunate position in Lethbridge that we have the University of Lethbridge that has really one of the premier teacher education programs probably in North America. We have a lot of people who are educated teachers in the city. So that certainly helps.”
Purcell said the City's new recycling program is being implemented throughout Lethbridge schools and the excitement of the athletic programs along with fine art programs.
“You'll see all of our students and staff have been working hard to implement the new recycling program; we do have a new website that's going to be coming up. Then of course, back to athletics and back to our fine arts. And we have Peter Pan is going to be coming up. So, lots of our students get to get into doing those fun activities.”
Nightingale voiced the Lethbridge School Division's support for the new harmonized speed zone hours and said school playgrounds are used even after school hours end.
“For us our schools really are hubs of the community. They're used not only during school hours but they're also used extensively outside of school hours.
“So that's why it makes a lot of sense to keep our kids safe because they're not just there when school is happening. They're using the parks, they're using the fields, all those sorts of things, which is exactly the way it should be, and certainly we're appreciative of people slowing down.”
Nightingale noted Lethbridge is a fast-growing city, and the school division is experiencing one to three per cent of growth across it. He expressed the school division's focus coming out of COVID to re-connect relationships with parents and students.
“For us, it's welcoming our kids back, welcoming our parents back and really establishing those deep, authentic relationships.”
Purcell expressed her excitement about the beginning stages of building the new school at Gary Station and the need for it.
“All of our schools are busting at the seams. It's certainly nice to be able to get that new school built, which will be hopefully opening in 2025.”
Nightingale advised students to take advantage of their time in school as it goes by fast.
“I think we do a lot of really good work in schools in throughout the province, and certainly in Lethbridge school division, and just take advantage of it and enjoy the time because it goes very, very quickly.”
Steffanie Costigan, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Lethbridge Herald