Ask Brian Holmes, and the wait was definitely worth it.
Holmes is the principal of Tatamagouche Regional Academy, which opened for students in September. The faculty and students hosted a special opening ceremony for the facility, with a number of supporters in attendance.
“We all know Tatamagouche is unique and has unique qualities,” said Holmes, during the ceremony that saw community leaders – from businesses to municipal and provincial support – gather on stage and others on the floor of the gymnasium.
“We are so excited to be able to learn in a facility that is second-to-none. A building is just that – a building. It’s the people in it that create the culture and spirit. We all know a school is more than four walls. With this school, we can provide many resources and an environment for exploration and opportunities. Students have so many options now and I’m very proud to see the culmination of our efforts. We are one community sharing in history today.”
The new school has been a vision for more than a decade and replaces Tatamagouche Elementary School and North Colchester High School. The elementary school was 50 years old, and the high school was an additional 10.
Holmes said when people walk through the doors at the school for the first time, many have comments. Many of the adults, he said, question why they didn’t have such a facility when they were students. Others have said it’s so much brighter than the previous buildings. And some have said one word – wow.
His favourite, however, is when someone walks from the entrance, around the school, and back to exit the building without saying a word.
Through a video message, Education Minister Zach Churchill said the building is more than a place to go to school. He said the school will give students the skills they need to prepare for their futures, and it’s designed to meet the needs of the community.
Colchester North MLA Karen Casey, a retired teacher, said she was proud to be there in her position.
“This journey began years ago and you deserve a lot of credit. You identified the importance of having a new school, and taking two and putting it into one. This is a state-of-the-art building.”
Having been a teacher, Casey said students can be in any kind of building they want, “but it’s that relationship between the students and teachers that builds success.”
Gary Adams, regional executive director of education for the Chignecto-Central Regional Centre for Education, said the school is a “shining example of reality.”
“It’s a place where students can call on their creativity, collaboration, and innovation to realize their success,” he said. “This building has the capacity to encourage students to uncover their passion for learning.”
To recognize the opening of the new school, a number of Grade 12 students last year worked with musician Keith Mullins to write a song. They wrote the lyrics to ‘Where the Rivers Meet the Ocean’ and Mullins put music to it. The song was played during the ceremony, with many children singing along.
Erica MacKeen, student council president, said students’ excitement grew as they watched the construction progress from the former high school, and now they’re taking advantage of everything the school has to offer.
She told her fellow students to treat the school and “everything in it with pride.” She said the school will give students new learning opportunities in the trades not every school has, and they will have some hands-on learning they’ll be able to use in the future.
“We’re excited to see how this new year unfolds,” she said.