Greater Fort Erie High School opened its doors for the first time on Tuesday and students got their first peek inside the new building, which has replaced the town’s two existing schools. The new mascot, Gryphon, was greeting students as they arrived.
FORT ERIE — After three long years, the process of amalgamating the town’s high schools into a single facility finally finished this week. Ridgeway Crystal Beach High and Fort Erie Secondary are officially no more; replaced by the shiny, new, sleek Greater Fort Erie Secondary School, or, ‘Gee-FESS’ as the kids have taken to calling it.
“Three years of hard work from the school board and the faculty, it’s all culminated in this, in what you see here today,” said the school’s principal Fred Louws, as he walked among the bustling student population on the first day of school. “Smooth but hectic is I think a good way to describe the atmosphere this morning, because it’s going well, but you have to remember, this is new for both the students and the teachers.”
While some new students scrambled around in the early hours of the first day, others took time to walk the new halls and soak in the sights.
“The architecture is the biggest difference,” said Jacob Stanring, a Grade 12 student who was formerly at FESS. “The other school had a very classic design, but they went for a slick and modern feel for the new building. It’s nice.”
The main entrance of GFESS feature high ceilings with natural light pouring in from the top, and a plaza-style design with many of the administrative offices, the gym, and of course the much-talked about theatre, all accessible right from the main artery.
The theatre, which was only added to the school after town hall agreed to help secure the $3 million needed to construct it, is not actually finished, but that didn’t stop students from sneaking in for a peek at the unfinished project. Perhaps fittingly, the theatre isn’t finished, nor is the funding necessary to pay for it. The town, through a combination of local tax funds and donations, is still in the process of collecting the money needed to pay for the theatre. In an update earlier this year, the town revealed it still had more than $1 million left to raise before the deadline next year when the school board needs the money. Any fundraising shortfall will fall back to the taxpayers of Fort Erie and the school board, who will split the remainder to make up the difference.
Funding issues aside, the school’s drama teacher, Vince Marinaccio, said he’s excited to get into the theatre once it’s finished.
“That theatre has exceeded our wildest expectations,” said Marinaccio. “The acoustics in there are fantastic, the lighting and rigging is way beyond what we had at the old school, and the stage is so much bigger. We’re going to be able to do so much more and go so much bigger with our productions now.”
The theatre might still be a work-in-progress, but Marinaccio said it will absolutely be ready to go for his first big production, a Canada 150 play that looks at the founding of the country and mixes in a dose of A Christmas Carol. The play will hit the stage on Nov. 10.
“It’s a fun play about our nation’s founding, and also looks at it from the Indigenous perspective, because they are really the true founders of this country,” said Marinaccio.
by James Culic Fort Erie Post