SD52 students explore a soldier's cairn off the Highway in early November as part of a Remembrance Day learning exercise.

School council briefs: Nov. 8 meeting

Low enrolment, schools go digital, Hartley Bay LESA negotiated, Aboriginal entrepreneurship program, new curriculum adjustment and more

Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program

Teachers from Charles Hays Secondary School and the Aboriginal Education Department teamed up with TRICORP and Lester Centre of the Arts manager Crystal Lorette for an engaging entrepreneurship program unit. TRICORP provided students with tools to help them explore their past, present and future, as well as overcoming obstacles to be a successful business operator.

Students created storyboard presentations on potential endeavours and even visited the Lester Centre where they took a tour, asked engaging questions and created visions on how to raise revenue for the Lester Centre – real life business case studies.

The students came up with ideas such as parking lot food trucks to service intermission guests with a variety of foods, and hosting fashion shows in an available room for Lester Centre guests. A daycare option was also proposed.

The board gave glowing reviews to the program and its partnership with TRICORP.

“I sit on the PAC (performing arts centre) council for this board and it was very promising what Crystal had to say about your program and how impressed she was,” said school board trustee Janet Beil. “She hopes this continues in the future, because she told us what you’re telling us right now and it was very exciting,” she told the participating students who presented their ideas to the board.

Board encourages program, falls short of providing requested funds

The Prince Rupert (SD52) school board resolved to send a letter of response to Pineridge Elementary School teacher Joanna Larson in support of an early grades outdoor education program, which would involve 110 students from kindergarten to Grade 4 exploring the woodlands in Morse Creek and related areas next year. Dubbed ‘Forest and Nature School,’ students would ideally learn collaboration, communication, trust and consensus building through the outdoors.

The program organizers asked the board for $3,500 in funds to help with an application for a B.C. Teachers’ Federation Inquiry Grant to carry out the program.

While trustees Beil and James Horne said that the board should respond to a letter addressed to them to show they support staff and advanced education, board chair Tina Last said that supplying the teachers with the requested funds is not something the board can do, and staff asking the board for money isn’t common.

“It’s not something we can accommodate. The superintendent said this has been looked after through appropriate channels. [The teachers] can do a presentation at a later date that would be welcome,” Last said. Superintendent Sandy Jones said that the district was able to provide the program with the funds it was looking for elsewhere.

Enrolment numbers don’t fluctuate

On Nov. 3, SD52 enrolment numbers stood at 1,992, a slight boost from the reported 1,963 figure during the second week of September, but still down from the more than 2,000 students in 2015-16. It’s the first year SD52 has ever dropped below 2,000 students. The district had budgeted for 2,026 students.

Average class sizes are lower than the provincial average and there are no classes over 30 students other than permitted classes, such as band.

When compared to last year’s class size averages, Superintendent Jones mentioned that kindergarten and Grades 1-3 class sizes were smaller, Grades 4-7 were over and Grades 8-12 were under from last year’s averages, but no substantive changes.

Hartley Bay LESA negotiated

District staff and members from Hartley Bay came up with a Local Education Service Agreement (LESA) between SD52 and the Gitga’at community.

“After some meetings went back and forth for a few months between our team and our team in Hartley Bay, we came to an agreement with the Gitga’at First Nation for educational services to the village,” said Jones. A formal signing will be held in February 2017 in Prince Rupert after the agreement is approved by the school board (who approved the deal Nov. 8) and Gitga’at council.

Schools go digital

Prince Rupert schools and principals across the district created new Twitter accounts for the staff to show off the initiatives and projects taken by staff and students. Various teachers and administrative officials already had accounts on the social media platform, but this is the first time that all schools bought in to the blue-bird hype.

“The great part of this, is now our principals are all able to tweet out and share some of the great work that’s going on in the district … so we’ve moved into the 21st century,” said Jones.

Look for updates from SD52 schools through the Twitter account: @RupertSchools

Ministry encourages SD52 to have projects ‘shovel-ready’

The Province of B.C. is encouraging SD52 and school districts around B.C. to make sure they have small projects that need funding ready to go.

In a meeting with the British Columbia School Trustees Association (BCSTA), Shanna Mason, assistant deputy minister for planning and major projects at the Ministry of Education, told board chairs that the more shovel-ready your project is, the more likely it is that it will be addressed.

“What’s most distressing is the amount of money that gets left on the table at the end of that cycle [districts submitting bills and province paying for them] due to districts not submitting their bills in a timely fashion,” said Last, who attended the meeting on behalf of the school board.

“What’s left over, the Ministry of Finance takes back, so it’s really hard to make a compelling argument the next year when [Mason] goes to the Department of Finance and says ‘we need more money and capital’ when you’ve left money on the table the year before,” said Last, adding that at the end of the budget cycle, and with money left over, Mason will look for shovel-ready small projects to fund.

$450 million was approved for capital projects to be funded from the Province of B.C. this year, and that number will rise to $530 million next year. Last mentioned that $150 million alone was distributed for playgrounds in B.C. and advised that the district’s operations and treasury department take note of Mason’s message of timely bills and shovel-ready projects.

New curriculum adapting well, older grades to be implemented later

Superintendent Jones provided an update on the brand new curriculum making its way through B.C. classrooms this year and said that while the earlier grades have taken hold well, the Grades 10-12 classrooms will need more time before they implement theirs.

“From [Grades] K-9, we’re seeing a really good uptake of the whole new curriculum and we’re doing quite a lot of work with the teachers on continuing to do the learning,” she said.

“It’s a lot of learning and a lot of trying things out, but I think largely the feedback we’re getting from people is that they’re kind of liking it. It’s exploration. There’s concerns from Grades 10 through 12, so we’ll go a little slower there, but K through 9 are going very well.”

Glen Hansman, president of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation, wrote a letter to Dave Byng, deputy minister of education in October to urge him to delay the new curriculum’s implementation due to the Ministry’s website only having sparse details for next year.

“Unfortunately, because the 10-12 curriculum mostly still exists in draft form, all the course calendar work going on right now is simply guess work,” Hansman wrote, adding that course calendars typically get released in January or February and require “tremendous work” by secondary schools to make.