Hazel Trembath Elementary students head to class at temporary school

Students from the former Hazel Trembath Elementary are preparing to go to their new temporary school at the Winslow Centre starting Monday.

Around 200 students from the former Hazel Trembath Elementary are stepping foot in their new temporary school at the Winslow Centre starting Monday.

Sisters Aria and Emia are students of the former school that burnt down just over a week ago. The sisters have been out of class for a week, and even though they are excited to go back to school, they say they have lost meaningful memories to the fire.

“I lost my time capsule — where you put a lot of precious things in a box,” Aria said. “I had a stuffy from when I fell on my chin. And this Japanese type of Barbie. And a dance medal. And a lot of other things, too.”

“I lost my pencil case and my school supplies,” Emia said.

The girls’ parents say they are thankful to the school board and the city for organizing a school bus, since the temporary school is a 20-minute ride away from their neighbourhood.

“It has been more positive than I would have anticipated, just in response and how much has been done,” said parent Jay McInnes. “And them getting everything done so quickly and efforts to keep everyone together instead of scattering everyone out to different schools. It’s been a very positive step.”

Despite the longer commute, Aria says she’s excited to take the school bus.

“It’s kind of like a field trip every day,” Aria said.

The fire on Oct. 14 broke out just after 3 a.m., police say, and while the school was unoccupied and no injuries were reported, police believe the fire to be suspicious.

Michael Thomas, board chair for School District 43, said there wasn’t too much left within the building, but one thing was salvaged.

“We managed to recover, from the former school, a sign that was on the fence, and we relocated it into the hallway of the school,” he said. “So as soon as students enter, they will be walking by the old school sign.”

The sign reads, “Rising up together.”

Thomas says the school board organized a fundraiser, and he is thankful for the community’s donations to help replace what the students lost in the fire.

“We are providing a new supply kit to every single student in the school,” he said.

The campaign has raised over $30,000 so far.

“We know that was a struggle for some families,” Thomas said. “They just went out and bought their supplies six weeks ago to get their kids ready, and they have all been lost in the fire.”

Thomas says the cause of the fire is still under investigation.

As for the parents, they say this experience has taken an emotional toll on their children.

“Just knowing something like that can happen… and the fact that can be so easily taken away was a big eye-opener,” McInnes said.

“We are asking anyone who may have video surveillance in the area of Hazel Trembath Elementary School around the time of the fire, to contact our investigators,” RCMP Corp. Alexa Hodgins said last week. “Police are also looking to speak with anyone who may have been in the area between the late evening of October 13, 2023 and the early morning of October 14, 2023.”

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