From the Niagara CDSB: On June 29, the doors to St. Joseph Catholic Elementary School in Niagara Falls closed for the final time. The closure was decided in the spring of 2009, following a lengthy, public pupil accommodation review.

Although closing a school is never an easy decision, school and Board staff have worked very hard to ensure the students’ transition from St. Joseph to their new schools – St. Mary, St. Patrick and Father Hennepin Catholic Elementary Schools – as easy as possible. Board staff maintained an ongoing dialogue with the parent community at St. Joseph throughout the Pupil Accommodation Review process and this school year.

Staff at St. Joseph worked hard throughout the year to create an atmosphere of enthusiasm for their transition. The principals and staffs from St. Mary, St. Patrick and Father Hennepin invited the St. Joseph students for a number of visits throughout the year, and have planned several special events to make the students feel at home.

On June 28, students paid one final visit to their new schools, bringing with them a number of mementos from St. Joseph, including crucifixes, books and rosary beads.

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Photo caption: Dignitaries pause while Niagara Catholic Faith Animator Fr. Paul MacNeil blesses the ground where the new school will be built. From left are: Catholic School Council Chair Randy Paura, Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin, Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor, Niagara Catholic Vice-Chair John Dekker, Niagara Catholic Board Chair Kathy Burtnik, Niagara Falls MP the Hon. Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Canada, Niagara Catholic Director of Education John Crocco, Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School Principal Theresa Murphy, Grade 6 student Hunter Ryan and Family of Schools Superintendent of Education Lee Ann Fosyth-Sells.

On June 24th, Niagara Catholic Senior Staff, members of the Board and local dignitaries gathered at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School in Fort Erie to celebrate the groundbreaking for improvements and renovations to the school.

Niagara Catholic received $4.6 million from the Ministry of Education for the renovations, through the Province’s Prohibitive to Repair Program.

Our Lady of Victory students currently attend class in two buildings: One for students in JK through Grade 3, known to staff and students as the “Junior School.” Students in Grades 4 through 8 attend class at the “Senior School.” That will change come next June, when all Our Lady of Victory students will be housed under one roof at a school which will simply be known as Our Lady of Victory Catholic Elementary School.

Renovations to the “Junior School” will begin this summer and will continue through the 2010-2011 school year. Students will attend class throughout the construction of the new building, which will be ready for students on the first day of the 2011-2012 school year. The existing senior school will then be torn down and external renovations will begin.

Niagara Catholic Director of Education John Crocco, Board Chair Kathy Burtnik, and Vice-Chair John Dekker were joined by Niagara Falls MP The Hon. Rob Nicholson, Minister of Justice and Canada’s Attorney General, Niagara Falls MPP Kim Craitor, Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin and members of Fort Erie town council for the occasion.

The celebration also included a speech by Grade 6 student Hunter Ryan, who will be a member of the graduating class of 2012 when the renovations are complete.

Students provided entertainment for the celebration, including songs performed by the school’s Victory Vocalists choir and a flash-mob dance routine, which involved the entire school.