Janus Academy was founded in 1997 as an accredited, independent, non-profit school to meet the unique educational needs of school-aged children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
It was named after the ancient Roman deity of new beginnings; and the school is looking forward to another new beginning when it relocates from the 1912 sandstone Ramsay School into bigger space in the northeast.
Executive director Carlene Chrumka says she and her board had been looking for a suitable new location for almost four years, as the space they have been occupying in the Calgary Board of Education building is needed to house the growing population of the Ramsay district.
Chrumka has served the school for most of that time, first on contract as a fundraiser and for the past three in her current role. Her fundraising skills are most welcome at this time — she is a Certified Fund Raising Executive, is a past president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals and was the executive director of the Bethany Care Foundation, which included fundraising duties.
Janus Academy’s annual spring gala, responsible for most of its much-needed donations, was scheduled to be held last month, but the event that usually draws 600 attendees had to be cancelled due to the ban on meetings of large groups.
However, Chrumka says the silent auction of donated items went ahead, and thanks to the effort by committee volunteers and staff all was not lost. But the move will obviously be a drain; the new space is being leased and the landlord — Vancouver-based Hungerford Properties — has been extremely generous in its tenant improvement package that is repurposing the entire second floor of its building at 403 33rd Street N.E.
Blake Tsuyuki, director of leasing and sales at Hungerford, says it was a pleasure working with Janus in helping prepare its new long-term home. He added that the success of the project was thanks to the collaborative approach between his firm, Chrumka, contractor Engelhart Reed, Peake Design Group and Colliers International.
The floor above CDI College offers 23,000 square feet of space on one level that will allow Janus to separate elementary classes from junior and senior high.
Currently, the academy has students in two separate locations — in Ramsay and in McDougall United Church in Acadia; when school returns in September all classes will be under one roof, which will make transitions from grades much easier for the students, many of whom have problems handling changes.
The move will also allow Janus Academy to grow its student enrolment from 60 to 100, an increase that is sorely needed. It was founded by just six families who couldn’t find appropriate schooling for their autistic children, and has leased classrooms in the Ramsay School for almost 20 years.
The demand is greater today as the academy has to turn away families each year. Janus currently has students from grades 1 to 12, maximizing their quality of life by providing the model learning environment that meets their academic, social and emotional needs, and facilitates lifelong community integration.
The 53 staff — a ratio of almost one to each student — have been busy preparing classes that students are working on through online learning, and keeping them energized with home activities such as how to exercise and make their own lunch and, importantly, keeping them in touch with teachers and classmates.
David Parker appears regularly in the Herald. Read his columns online at calgaryherald.com/business. He can be reached at 403-830-4622 or by email at email@example.com.