Out of the halls, and into school

The new Olds High School was created to be a comfortable place for students to study.

Students gather in the Olds High School common area for a lunch hour video game contest.

Students gather in the Olds High School common area for a lunch hour video game contest.

The new Olds High School was created to be a comfortable place for students to study.

As part of the new design, the school has nearly rid itself of hallways.

“Whenever people refer to school they always refer to being ‘in the halls’,” said Olds High School principal Tom Christensen. “We wanted to clearly send a message that is not what Olds High School is. The favourite place for me to work is my home and we really felt that whatever we do to a hallway isn’t like that.”

Instead, there are quads, which consist of classrooms, with areas where there are couches, chairs and tables that make the space feel more like a living room than a school. In fact, there is even a kitchen, complete with sink, fridge and microwaves in each quad, as well as computer stations and areas where students can use their own laptops.

The classrooms have a flexibility that most high schools haven’t had in the past, with movable walls that can slide one way or another dependent upon the size of the class. Each classroom has top-of-the-line sound equipment and Blu-ray systems.

“We built the Community Learning Campus with 21st Century Learning in mind,” said Jim Gibbons, superintendent of the Chinook’s Edge School Division.

“If we say that form follows function. If you say young people need to be engaged in their work. They need to work co-operatively in teams and problem solve, then you should have your form that supports that. The big thing is having flexibility, so it isn’t all in how desks are arranged, but can you arrange them in different ways — can you empty the room, can you have video conferencing? It really is all about flexibility.”

Gibbons said another overarching theme of the CLC has been helping students seamlessly transition from high school into post-secondary education. Students take their core classes in the high school, but also use the Bell e-Learning Centre, the Fine Arts and Multi Media Centre and other Olds College campus facilities to take their CTS training and the Olds College library for research.

“One of the aspects when you work at this school, it’s not just about this building,” Christensen said. “That was really purposeful and I think that will really help our students over the years to feel more comfort when they move on to post-secondary, whether it be Olds College or anywhere else. They will know a college campus.”

It also involves looking at subjects in a different manner. Olds High School has a Science Park, where students can work on projects and bring in physics, chemistry or other knowledge to help them solve real-world problems. The room is equipped with state-of-the-art microscopes and set up with different centres. It’s a little like a high-tech version of play stations at a kindergarten, but instead of exploring blocks and the sandbox, high school students will use models of the human body and learn more about particles.

“We really wanted the science area to be a space where students felt that they were really at home there,” Christensen said. “We wanted it to be a place where there could be hands-on learning. That they could go in and do work without necessarily a structured class going on. So we used the word park, much like we use a park for a place where people gather.”

Approximately 600 Olds High School students officially moved in on Feb. 22, but students have been taking classes on the CLC at Olds college at the Bell e-Learning building since May 2008.

The CLC has been under construction since May 2006. The Bell e-Learning Centre, the Fine Arts and Multi Media Centre and the Ralph Klein Centre combine facilities to serve Olds High School and Olds College students, as well as community members.

In the Ralph Klein Centre, where Olds High School is now located, there is also a health and wellness centre, which includes a walking track, three gym courts and fitness equipment, as well as offices for Child and Family Services and Alberta Employment and Immigration.

The CLC is a joint venture by Olds College and Chinook’s Edge School Division in collaboration with the Town of Olds, Mountain View County and the University of Alberta. The nearly $70-million project was funded with close to $56-million from the provincial government, along with more than $5 million from Olds College and funding from each of the other partners.

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