Cedar Community Secondary School will re-open Tuesday (Sept. 6) and for Grade 12 Matthew Aarsen it will be a homecoming in more than one way.
Slated to be converted to an elementary school after being closed in 2014 by a previous Nanaimo school district board, the current board reversed the decision in 2015 and Aarsen is happy to complete his final year of high school in familiar surroundings. He attended Ladysmith Secondary School last school year.
Aarsen said he was saddened by the school closure.
“I felt like it was an eviction because Cedar felt a lot like a home to me, so it felt like I was getting kicked out of my home,” said Aarsen.
He said he found out about the re-opening on Facebook and was ecstatic. All the Cedar school transplants were smiling, he said.
“It was a smaller school, whereas in a bigger school like Ladysmith we have these social barriers where friend groups don’t intertwine because, “Oh, you play in band? You only hang with the band kids.’ At Cedar, we didn’t have that. Everyone talked to each other, everyone was friends with each other,” said Aarsen.
He said there weren’t student-teacher barriers and teachers were like friends.
“That was probably my favourite part, that there was no barriers between anybody,” Aarsen said of the previous incarnation of Cedar Secondary.
Kathie Aarsen, Matthew’s mother, said she too was happy to see Cedar Community Secondary open again. It was an integral part of the community, she said.
“Because Cedar is a smaller community, there’s always been the junior grades, primary and elementary schools, had used the high school facilities and the high school and the … students would mentor the elementary students,” said Kathie Aarsen. “All of a sudden our elementary schools in Cedar were left with no mentors, no one to follow.”
The commutes were also difficult for Matthew Aarsen. He would catch the bus at 7:30 a.m. at Woodbank Primary School arriving at Ladysmith at 8:15 a.m. this past year.
“I used the bus for sleeping most days. I was not ready to go. Lots of times first block, I couldn’t stay awake,” said Aarsen.
The commute will now be a two-minute drive or a 20-minute walk, he said.
Darcy Hoff, Cedar school principal, said he’s excited for the start of the year.
“The building looks great. Inside looks great, outside looks great,” said Hoff.
Currently about 215 students are enrolled, Hoff said.
— Save Cedar Schools (@SaveCedarSchool) April 23, 2015