Turn Right on Kent Street

We were out the door at 8:00 a.m. this morning – the bell at St. Paul’s Church had just started to chime – and headed up Prince Street, as we have hundreds of times since Oliver started school.

Today, however, was different: at the corner of Kent we turned right. Down Kent to Hillsborough, cut across Kings Square, up Weymouth to Ken’s Corner, across the perilous “intersection that nobody understands” and along Longworth (saying “hello!” to the crossing guard) to Birchwood Intermediate School where Oliver starts grade 7 this morning. It’s 11 minutes from door-to-door.

First Day of Grade One

The King of Prince Street

First Day of Grade Seven

First Day of Grade 7

We were warned that Birchwood would be chaotic and cacophonous this morning but it was neither. We chatted with the guidance counsellor – she too is moving from Prince Street to Birchwood, so was an old hand – about the meaning of the Birchwood school motto, “Prima Primo” (or is it “Primo Prima”?) which seems, oddly, to mean “First First” in Latin.

While this motto appears ceremonially throughout the school, the website is emblazoned with “Quality Education in a Caring, Disciplined Environment.” I suppose that’s not a bad sentiment, but it could also describe a military school or a dog training college. I would prefer something like “A Laboratory for Discovering Self, Community and the World,” but nobody listens to me.

Our experiences at Birchwood to date have been universally positive: we were in for a tour and a chat on Tuesday, got Oliver set up with his locker and introduced to his homeroom teacher, and saw his classrooms (including the wood shop, sewing lab and cooking lab).

Birchwood has a lot of room to ramble around in now that the Spring Park students, temporarily housed there for a couple of years while their new school was under construction, have returned home; this means there are a lot of rooms available for small-group teacher, special products and so on. We’ve lucked in to the small “intimate” junior high in Charlottetown: last year Queen Charlotte had 456 students, Stonepark had 773 while Birchwood had a modest 232. There are four grade 7 classes in the school (one of which is an 8-student late French immersion class); Oliver has 23 students in his homeroom class, which is larger than any class he’s even had, but still well within reason.

So far, so good.