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Students in the School

Time to start uploading the work from my other writing class. I did my project on my high school. If anyone here knows about it, I did take some liberties with my pieces. Most of the pieces are completely true, but there are some that have been embellished and others that are almost completely made up. They're all inspired by real events though. Some of the names are different, just because I couldn't always remember the right ones. I'm also cutting out my source lists. If anyone really wants to know what's on them, I can post them later.

Anyway, here's the first instalment. Not the first one I wrote, but the first one that should be read.


Students in the School

Red brick walls towered three stories into the air. Large windows with white cross-sections took up most of the available wall space. In the middle, windows stretched from the main doors to the top of the third floor. White lettering next to those windows proclaimed “Wm ABERHART HIGH SCHOOL” at the top of the building.

I leaned against one of the posts holding up an awning over the main doors. In front of me cars came and went as parents dropped off students. Only twenty minutes until grade ten orientation started. Kids mingled around me as they met up with friends from Jr. High. Mr Chee, one of the assistant principals, walked up and down the sidewalk, urging students to make their way inside. I waved at him as he passed by for the eighth time since I arrived. He smiled before stopping at a group of smokers and chasing them across the street.

I looked over to the parking lot and saw a familiar red van pull in. The lot, which was really just 40 or so spots – half of those belonging to staff – was full of cars trying to get out after dropping off students. The door of the red van slid open and Liz jumped out. She reached back in, grabbed her bag, and said goodbye to her mom. Pushing off my pole I met her at the fence that separated the parking lot from the school.

”Hey Al!” Liz smiled and hugged me. “Long time no see.”

 ******

Founded in 1957, William Aberhart High School borrows its name from the Honourable William Aberhart, Premier of Alberta’s first Social Credit Government. The Social Credit Party governed Alberta for thirty-five years and eight months, a record in the history of the province.

William Aberhart, also known as “Bible Bill”, served as principal at three public schools between 1910 and 1915; King Edward Elementary and Junior High School, Alexandra Junior High School, and Mount Royal Senior High School. From 1915 until 1935 he served as principal at Crescent Heights High School. During this period he also preached at various churches and held Bible classes. When the Calgary Prophetic Bible Institute formed in 1925, Aberhart was appointed Dean. This was also the year he started broadcasting Sunday afternoon lectures on the radio.

During the Great Depression, Aberhart became interested in the theories of Major C.H. Douglas, known as “social credit” theories. These theories dealt with the "discrepancy between the costs of production and the purchasing power of individuals. A Social Credit Government would supplement individuals' purchasing power through direct grants.” Aberhart and the Social Credit League attempted to convince the United Farmers of Alberta Government to adopt this policy, but failed. Instead, Aberhart formed the Social Credit Party and won the 1935 election. Aberhart was appointed Premier of the Province of Alberta on the same day as his appointment to Minister of Education. Two months later he was appointed Attorney General.

 ******

I sat in the front row of white and orange bleachers in the gym. Liz sat behind me and I turned around in my seat to talk to her. Conversation buzzed all around us. People catching up on summer holidays, figuring out who came to the new school with them from junior high, and making new friends. Liz and I couldn’t find any of our other friends, but we knew they were in the crowd somewhere.

In front of the bleachers a row of chairs faced us, flanking a podium covered with the orange Aberhart flag. The three assistant principals and three guidance counselors sat in the chairs on the left of the podium. The heads of the departments sat on the right. I had already picked out the teachers I knew. Mr Paddock the band teacher, Mr Kempt who sponsored the school newspaper, Ms Everett for Biology, my guidance counselor Ms McLaughlin, and two of the three assistant principals, Mr Chee and Ms Schwartz. I’d already been to the bar with all of them. Having a mom teaching in the same school that I went to could be an advantage – I knew most of the staff personally – but it could easily be a pain too. Knowing too much about your teachers’ personal lives just wasn’t right. Knowing that some of your teachers had babysat you and changed your diapers was even worse.

Turning back to Liz I caught Kailen’s eye. She sat two people over from me. She gave me a thumbs-up and smiled nervously. The paper in her hand, her short speech on the school newspaper, shook slightly. I smiled back in what was hopefully a reassuring way. As editor of the paper she had the privilege of telling the new grade tens to write for us. As photo editor I just had to stand beside her and look pretty.

I finally tuned back into Liz as she finished her story of camping during the summer. “It was so much fun. Anyway, aren’t you looking forward to this year?”

“You bet.” I laughed. “I know this school inside out and I’m already friends with a bunch of grade twelves. For once in our lives, we’re going to be cool.”

“Oooo, I bet you know the teachers too, right?” Liz’s eyes went wide with excitement. “You can get us in good with them.”

Tapping on the microphone at the podium stopped any further conversation. Ms Levy, new as principal that year, smiled at the five hundred odd students crammed into bleachers meant to fit not even half that. “Welcome students.” Her teeth flashed in the light reflected off the polished hardwood. “I am proud to be the first to welcome you to these halls. To the start of your high school career. We have an exciting day planned for you and I hope that will continue into an exciting year full of fun and enjoyment, with maybe a bit of education thrown in too.”

 ******

With 54 classrooms, 2 gymnasia, a fitness centre, a multi-media library resource centre, and specialized areas for music, drama, and art, Aberhart is by no means a small school. It hosts around 1500 students with 77 teachers and 17 support staff members. Of theses, nearly 600 students belong to the French Immersion program. Aberhart is also home to the largest debate union in North America, participating in anything from regional up to international competitions. Aberhart also houses the largest high school Model United Nations team in Calgary and the most frequently published school newspaper in Southern Alberta, known as The Advocate.

In addition to extra-curricular activities, Aberhart has also implemented the Access and ALP4 programs. The Access program is designed to assist students with special needs who require individual attention. It allows the students to learn life skills and take part in activities both in and out of the school. The ALP4 program is for those students with special needs, but who do not need the individual attention of those in the Access program. They are integrated into some regular classes, but still take a few classes with the Access class and individual instruction.

Aberhart also offers Advanced Placement courses. These courses provide the students with a first year university level education in addition to the high school curriculum. Currently Aberhart offers AP Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Comparative Government & Politics, English Literature & Composition, French Language, Physics, and Fine Arts.

 ******

I looked through my camera lens at the grade ten orientation BBQ. I snapped a picture of one of the volunteers grilling burgers and looked around for another shot. Students spread out across the field in clumps. Everyone still hung out near the doors, but a few were making their way down to the soccer nets at the other end of the field. Someone had smuggled some balls out of the phys ed office and a game of volleyball was underway near the portables. The teachers mostly stayed along the outside wall of the band room, watching the students from a safe distance. I took a picture of the boy walking around in full Trojan armour. The school mascot tried to sip his juice without taking off his helmet and managed to spill the drink onto the dying grass lawn. He jumped back from the mess, the orange flag he carried billowing.

I turned away and leaned in close to Liz. “I’m going to go get a drink.” I yelled over the DJ’s music. “Want to come?”

She looked around the field at the mob and nodded. “It’s way too loud out here anyway.”

We left the noisy party and entered the relative quiet of the school. The doors, old and soundproof, provided a welcome relief when they closed, cutting off the music and shouting. Liz and I walked past the band room and into the phys ed hall. The doors to the main gym were propped open and we could see some of the staff still in their talking. We passed the closed auxiliary gyms and phys ed office and glanced at the bulletin boards. Ads for school teams covered most of the space, with a few flyers for the university teams hidden among them. Passing the girls’ locker room we turned into one of the main hallways that made up the square of the school. I dropped my change into the vending machine while Liz looked at the old team photos on the wall. Beside her a large window let us look in on the gym. A plaque above the window declared the gym “In Honour of David Elton” in gold lettering.

“I remember that.” Liz turned from the old photos and looks up at the plaque. “Lost Cost, right?”

 ******

In 2000 a group of students from Aberhart went on a trip to California. Part of the trip involved a hike along the cost along a trail known as the Lost Cost Trail. During the hike a parent chaperone, Barbara Clement, was pulled into the water by a rogue wave. Three students, David Elton, Brodie Macdonald and Jordon Nixon, as well as a teacher, Mr Poirier, dove in after her. Jordon and Mr Poirier were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Barbara Clement, David Elton and Brodie Macdonald were not.

At the time of the tragedy, The Calgary Board of Education recalled all school trips in progress. One school that was already at the airport boarding the plane was told to come home. All school trips for the rest of the year were suspended until a complete investigation could be conducted. It was eventually determined that the accident was not a result of the School Board’s negligence or a lack of planning. In the years since any trip proposed must be planned in ten minute increments and is subject to review by the CBE and cancellation at any time.

The CBE’s decision to limit school trips was partially based on the reaction of Brodie Macdonald’s mother. She blamed the school and sued both the school board and Mr Poirier.

The parents of David Elton created a scholarship in his name.

 ******

Liz turned away from the plaque and grabbed my arm. “C’mon. Let’s go exploring.”

“Exploring?” I looked around. “Where?”

“Here of course. You may know you’re way around, but I don’t. C’mon, show me everything. I wanna see the band room, oh, the Advocate office. You said that was cool. Oooo! Can we go to the room with all the animals? And the Sport School? Show me your mom’s desk! And the drama room? You’re mom always talks about it. I want to see what all the fuss is about.”

 I laughed. “Fine. I’ll show you around the big scary high school.” I held out my hand. “Let’s go exploring.”