Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School holds grand opening event

By Garrett Simmons

Communications Officer

Lethbridge School District No. 51

Senator Joyce Fairbairn Middle School put on quite a show Friday morning.

A number of government officials, dignitaries and community partners gathered inside the brand-new school’s gymnasium to celebrate the official grand opening,

A dazzling multi-media presentation kicked off the event, as students were brought into the gym via a pair of pipers.

The school, named in the honour of our of Canada’s most influential senators, Joyce Fairbairn, received a special honour, as Senator Scott Tannas presented the school with an official Senate of Canada flag. Tannas also spoke about Fairbairn, and how fortunate students were to have their school named after her.

“There is no person in the 150-year history of the senate that did that job better than your Joyce Fairbairn,” said Tannas. “We are all so jealous, those of us who aren’t in school anymore, that you’ve got such a wonderful, modern building in which to learn and build your lives. You are also very lucky to have Senator Fairbairn as your name here at the school.”

Alberta Education Minister David Eggen echoed those sentiments, and added today’s grand opening will be a moment not soon forgotten.

“Kids, this is something you must remember for the rest of your lives, because new schools don’t come around so often, and it’s not just a school – it’s a centre of community involvement, and a place to be proud of.”

Eggen added there are 244 new school and modernization projects currently on the go in Alberta.

Lethbridge School District No. 51 Board Chair Clark Bosch was pleased Fairbairn was one of those projects, as he mentioned he has watched the building evolve over the last few years.

“Our Board first toured this building last spring, but I have been driving by it for a couple of years. My dog and I have spent a great deal of time monitoring the progress of the building from the hill by the lake over there,” he said. “The most intriguing thing is that this building is no longer the structure that my dog and I observed on almost a daily basis. You see, until a couple of weeks ago, this place was just a construction zone creating rooms with walls. On Aug. 27, it started to become more than that with the arrival of our great staff and then, with the appearance of our students on Sept. 4, it instantly became a community with an endless supply of excitement.”

Bosch added Fairbairn’s first group of students will be involved in many milestones.

“Students, you will always be the original pioneers of this community. Everything you do here will be being done for the first time, whether it is the first band concert, drama production or volleyball game.  You are the creators of history and the initiators of tradition.”

Lethbridge Mayor Chris Spearman spoke about Fairbairn’s vision and legacy, and how students can build upon it.

“Senator Fairbairn was an example of someone who believed in collaboration. People who think politics is about arguing about differences have it all wrong. The most important things is collaboration. Senator Fairbairn celebrated learning, she was a champion of literacy and she understood that the future of our students and our future generations was about becoming literate, understanding how to succeed in life and giving back to her community, and she did that her entire life.”

The mayor had one final message for those gathered.

“Congratulations to all of you,” he said. “Remember the leadership of Senator Joyce Fairbairn, what she stood for – literacy, learning, collaboration – don’t lose those messages, because that’s what we need going forward in the future in the City of Lethbridge, the Province of Alberta and the country of Canada. We all need to work together and solve our problems together.”

Fairbairn principal Bill Bartlett spoke about his meeting with Senator Fairbairn, when he, Supt. Cheryl Gilmore and Board Chair Bosch visited the senator to reveal the name of the school.

“She was truly excited and elegant and accepted us to visit her that day,” said Bartlett. “It was truly a special opportunity.”

The principal added Lethbridge’s new middle school is certainly starting with a solid foundation, built by Fairbairn’s lifetime of achievements.

“I can’t imagine having a better role model to guide our legacy as we build our community than Senator Joyce Fairbairn.”

Bartlett highlighted one of Fairbairn’s famous quotes as inspiration for the school community.

“She knew the value of literacy as a societal equalizer,” said Bartlett. “She wrote, ‘Because of the varying degrees of basic literacy skills, reading writing and numeracy, far too many are forced to the sidelines in our national life.’ ”

Friday’s ceremony included the official Government of Alberta plaque presentation, along with the traditional ribbon-cutting ceremony. A table of Senator Fairbairn memorabilia was also set up for visitors to view as they entered the gym.

After the morning’s festivities, Grade 8 students led dignitaries on a series of school tours, before the entire school community went outside for a school-wide photo and video to celebrate the occasion.

Date posted: Sept. 14, 2018

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