Call it a sign of the times.
The black-letter messages posted on the white board outside Princess Margaret Secondary are humorous, timely and sometimes seasonal – not the usual Report Card Day and Band Concert reminders typically advertised on school signs.
You know, boring stuff.
“All that (information) can be found on our website,” noted Paulo Sarmento, principal at the Newton-area school.
Instead, administrators went with something definitely more unique. And so, those who drive or walk along 72nd Avenue are treated to some creative quotes.
“I told a chemistry joke. There was no reaction,” for one.
“What if the algebra teachers are really pirates and are using us to find X,” read another.
“What do snowmen like to do on the weekend? Chill out!” the sign currently displays to eastbound traffic, while those heading west are shown this doozy: “Who says oh oh oh? Santa walking backwards.”
It turns out, students in the school’s BASES program are responsible for coming up with messages posted on the prominent sign.
“Their goal is to make people smile as they drive by our school,” Sarmento said.
Mission accomplished, apparently.
“I have people calling the school now commenting on our school sign,” the principal added. “I play soccer with a bus driver who says that everyone in his station wants the 72nd Avenue run because of our sign.”
Tuesday (Dec. 5) was sign-changing day for close to a dozen students led by teacher Laura Earl, head of the school’s BASES program, or Building Academic Social and Employment Skills.
The teens – Sukh, Anu, Phaedra-Lynn, Raza, Ethan and Bibekjot among them – were all smiles as Earl spoke about how they take the job seriously, and love it.
“Every 10 days the sign message is changed,” the teacher explained. “They usually use their iPads to create ideas and I give them parameters, maybe four topics, and then they go with it.”
Those concepts are then taken to Sarmento, whose task is to choose two messages for display on either side of the sign.
“He decides, and the kids whose messages are chosen are pretty happy at that point,” Earl explained.
“I really didn’t realize how funny some of the kids were with their ideas. The humour is really good to see.”
Students in the BASES program have changed the sign messages for at least five years, since Earl began working at the school.
“For a long time is was just informational (messages), and the kids didn’t really like doing it,” she explained. “It’s been about a year and a half of doing the quotes, and it’s allowed the students to really take ownership of it. We use this as a way to teach them work experience, as a way to take ownership of this job, that sign.”
Frustratingly, some dirty words are sometimes spray-painted on the sign by vandals, or worse.
“They don’t let that get to them, but yeah, they do wonder why the sign gets vandalized with graffiti, or damaged,” Earl said. “They know they have a job to come and do, and they keep positive about it.”
With such a feel-good story to tell, Sarmento sees no sign of changing the way messages are posted at the school.
“It’s taken off,” he said. “I’ve got people calling me saying, ‘Hey, what’s with your signs? They’re good.’ And the kids love it when they hear this stuff, right? They’re proud.”