ALAMEDA - Alameda School has been busy with many activities and events lately.
Principal Christina Vellacott, who started with the school in 2021-22, said while COVID affected the year, they still found opportunities to have fun and are now bringing some great projects in.
They started the year with no masks and fewer restrictions, but then everything got stricter again. Since January, they started to open up again and have a few more events and in-person meetings. And as 2022 was progressing, the school got busier, finally inviting community members to join them once it was allowed.
One of the first things to be brought back was the Grade 2/3 visits with elders in the community.
"Kids go and do a reading with them every now and again at the Merrymakers. Our kids are looking forward to that and they are super excited every time they get to go to the Merrymakers and read. And then we also have the elders excited to have the kids come in and read to them," Vellacott said
The school was supposed to have their book fair in mid-April, but it was postponed because of the snowstorm. The event was moved to the end of the month and incorporated into a big Autism Awareness Week filled with festivities.
The week kicked off with some classroom videos for the kids to get more of an understanding and depth of knowledge on what autism is and how they can support people in the school that are living with autism.
Last Tuesday, a representative of the Saskatchewan Health Authority did an inclusion presentation for all classrooms.
"She did the K-Grade 3 in one presentation and then she did a little bit more of a mature presentation for our Grade 4-6s and 7-9s. And that was wonderful because then the kids got more of an understanding and could see some of the role models they might have, like Johnny Depp and people like that who do live with autism that we don't realize do and that they can still live a very functional life," Vellacott explained.
Wednesday saw the school working on a collective puzzle piece art project. Students coloured puzzle pieces, which represent autism awareness, decorating them with something either unique to them or ways they can support people with autism. The pieces were then put up on display in the school.
Thursday had a big surprise for the students, as one of the Saskatchewan Roughriders, Albert Awachie, visited the school to read to the younger students in the morning and then answer some questions older kids had later on. In the afternoon, the school also hosted their Reading Tea for the students, staff and the community.
"We had a ton of people, the gym was full of tables and people – grandparents, aunties, uncles, some parents. It was just really nice to get them back in the building," Vellacott said.
One of the families sponsored a hot lunch, and students were wearing blue shirts at their request to show their support for peers with autism.
On Friday, students watched some movies about people living with autism. Vellacott said the students were very receptive, engaged and excited about all events throughout the week.
While the filled with events Autism Awareness Week came to an end in April, school activities were not over. On May 6, Alameda School invited the community to their traditional LIT.
"It's something that's been in the tradition of Alameda School since the 50s, I believe. It's a performance that the students do for the community. This year we're doing singing and some talents with some kids dancing, some kids doing solos," Vellacott explained.
With uncertainty earlier this year, students had only a few weeks to get ready for the LIT, but Vellacott said the main excitement was that it was a big event for the community that kids and parents could finally enjoy together.
Vellacott started as Alameda School's principal this year and said she's been enjoying the new role.
"It's been a wonderful experience. This little town of Alameda is so supportive of their kids and their staff and the students. And it's just been such a wonderful ride," Vellacott said.
She grew up on Vancouver Island and then moved to Saskatoon for university, where she met her husband to be. The family then moved to northern Manitoba, where she taught in a fly-in community for a year.
"It was just too remote for us, but we loved it. We wanted to be a little bit closer to family, and we moved to La Loche, Saskatchewan and taught there for three or four years. Then we moved down to Oxbow and I taught in Oxbow last year, and then I was offered the job here for this year," Vellacott shared.
It's her first time working as a principal, and she said the experience has been pretty surreal.
"It's totally a different role than a teacher, which I didn't realize it was this much of a different role. But it's been really good. And I think the thing I love most about being the principal is that I get to make relationships with every student in the school, and not just the ones in my classroom," Vellacott said.
She's also been coaching the Girls at Bat program through the Toronto Blue Jays Care Program, which is for all girls from kindergarten to Grade 9.
"The Jays Care Program has been really phenomenal. They gave us free T-shirts, they gave us a whole bunch of free equipment so that we could actually run the program, and then we didn't have to worry about finding ball gloves and bats and all those pieces for the girls," Vellacott said.
The program is wrapping up in mid-May.
Before the end of the year, the school will also host the track meet on May 25, which will be open to parents and the broader community.
"In the past, it's been quite a community event, less than a school event," Vellacott said.
The school year will wrap up with an awards ceremony in June.