By Milla Pickfield
BURLINGTON, ON. I’m so jealous. I fell asleep in the middle of my math exam in June of 2012. Why did I fall asleep? No air conditioning. Well at Dr. Frank J. Hayden High School they won’t have that problem. They have air-conditioning and I’ve heard it’s absolutely gorgeous. The whole school is new; and new is spectacular! This huge high school located in the Alton Village opened last week and now houses grades nine and ten students from the surrounding area.
Alton is one of the last undeveloped residential lands in Burlington and it could be assumed that they recognized the potential growth of the community would exceed the capacity of existing high schools.
If I had to sum up the new school in one word I would use impressive. Built as one part of the community center -. Hayden High School is huge. The complex has eight competition-sized gyms and a library, and a skate park just outside the school!
Just imagine – you’re in grade ten and you’ve been moved to a brand new high school. Your first day of school – wake up, get dressed, brush your teeth – normal routine in the morning. But this is anything but a normal morning. Today, you get to sleep in a little later than the year before because your new school opens a little later. This morning you don’t have to rush out the door to catch the bus because your school is just a short walk away. This year… at least half of your school friends will not be waiting in front of the school doors to greet you… they go to a different school across town.
One student commented on how he felt when he first entered the school, “Being at a brand new school is very exciting, and it’s also really interesting to be the first ones to see the school to its full extent.” But when asked about what it felt like to be going to school without some of his friends he said; “Having only half of my friends around simply doesn’t feel right. I made at least three good friends last year who had to stay at Nelson, and it feels very unusual without them around.”
Those students who were at Nelson and going into grade 11 stayed at Nelson because Hayden was offering just grades nine and ten. Transition from old to new can be difficult but at the same time exciting. On one hand you miss those old run-down specialties that made your school feel like home… but then again, look at those perks! Everything is new. New computers, up-to-date software that actually works and aligns with the software on your home computer, air-conditioning (remember I’m jealous), internet that operates all the time, a new sound system throughout the school so it doesn’t sound like people speaking underwater … the list could go on and on.
Okay, I am going to go on and on: it’s the food. Since it’s a high school and a community center, rumour has it that a big name food provider will be opening its doors. Did I tell you I’m jealous? Oh, right, I did.
But there is a downside. While the new eye-popping catchy attractions may make you jealous (maybe that’s just me) you lose a sense of tradition. As many know, a lot of the excitement that surrounds school is knowing that you aren’t the first ones there; your parents may have gone to that school when they were younger. Sometimes just knowing that gives you a sense of comfort and familiarity. Remember in the movie The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock when Michael Oher is being questioned on why he chose the University of Mississippi? Michael simply responds with “Because it’s where my family goes to school. It’s where they’ve always gone to school.”
Michael chose the University of Mississippi because the sense of unity and pride, knowing that he will follow in his parents and their parent’s footsteps. Going to a new high school breaks that tradition. You are not walking the halls your parents walked before you: instead you are walking halls that no one has ever walked before. You are creating new tradition and perhaps walking the halls your children may walk someday.
For the next couple of months I will be exploring what it is like being at a new school – from the perspective of teachers, administration, the architects, parents, but most importantly from the students – the individuals who walk the halls every day trying to navigate education and relationships – no mean feat.
Milla Pickfield is a Nelson High graduate who is taking a year off before going to university to do community work and gain experience with people and places that are well outside her past experience and comfort zone. She expects to follow the creation of the legend that will become Hayden High School in the Alton Village.