As part of Education Week, the Prince Rupert Northern View presents a look at the schools in the community in 2011/2012.
Charles Hays Secondary School
For the first time in decades there is a single secondary school in Prince Rupert following the amalgamation of Prince Rupert Secondary School and Charles Hays and the creation of a middle school.
And despite the challenges that may be expected bringing all of the highs school students together under one roof, coupled with challenges associated with the current job action, Charles Hays Secondary principal Sandy Jones says the year has progressed well. The students, she says, are doing fine and have been getting together on sports teams, in clubs and with a very active student council.
When asked about highlights so far in the 2011/2012 school year, Jones says there is much for the staff and students to be proud of.
“I was certainly excited about the success of the musical production, which is a first for many of the students, and all four basketball teams won zones and made it to provincials, so that is very exciting as well,” she said, adding that they are seeing “great things” coming out of the grade nine Modern Education Class.
“Another highlight is the Vimy Ridge trip coming up in April. There are 42 students and six adults going, and those kids have worked really hard for that.”
This week students will participate in a “curriculum fair” to examine the options available to them in the next school year, while others will continue to get ready for graduation in June.
“There is still a lot of work to be done…We still have a half a term to get through,” said Jones.
Prince Rupert Middle School
It seems as though seven months of school have gone by in a blink.
Back in September the new middle school, PRMS, opened its doors to grades six, seven and eight students. With no leaders to guide them, the students had a difficult start to finding their “niche” among the many other 460 new students. Both the principle, Ken Minnette and vice-principle, Andree Michaud, were full of optimism about the school and students; and continue to be today.
Some of the biggest highlights for PRMS were they’re first gym riot – renamed to “winter wonder fest” too make it sound “less of a riot”. A “great leader” from CHSS did an awesome job guiding the middle school’s Student Council how to run an all afternoon event. All students were well involved; whether it was participating in the fun activities or cheering for the team from the bleachers. The students had a great time, regardless.
Another highlight for the school was its first dance. Running into the evening for two hours, the dance was well attended and dozens of parents had volunteered as chaperones; not that the students minded. David Coska, a volunteer, was the DJ for the night and had played excellent and suitable music for the students.
There were plenty of extracurriculars for the students; with hope more to come in the next year. For being its first year, PRMS’s grade eight boys volley-ball team and basket-ball team both won the zones. PRMS’s school name is “The Storm”.
This first year of PRMS was definitely successful in many areas. The parents, and even the students themselves, are loving the education at the school and the variety of highlights over the year were unforgettable. And even though the year flew by, it was definitely a good one that will start the many more good years to come.
Pineridge elementary school is one that has undergone not only a change in terms of composition, with the grade six and sevens moving to Prince Rupert Middle School, but also had an influx of students with the closing of Westview Elementary last summer.
“It was a really seamless transition. The two schools amalgamated without a problem or any issues. Everyone has become friends and worked together and learned together,” said principal Kathy Dann.
“You couldn’t tell who had been with what school within about two days. Everybody became one.”
For the five students present during an interview last week, some sporting whacky hair for one of the school’s spirit days, the changes have been welcome.
“The playground rules have changed. Last year the primary students got to play on it in recess and the intermediates got to play during lunch because some of the kids were being knocked over. Now everyone plays together,” said grade four student Lisa.
“There’s new kids here from Westview and lots of new teachers from Westview…And it’s a very safe school,” added grade four student Todd.
Branden moved to Pineridge from Westview, and he said he likes the school a lot better. One of the bigger changes with a middle school in the school district is the way the grade fours and five carry themselves.
“These guys are leaders, They look after the classes at lunch and they look after the playgroud…They will take on any opportunity for leadership in the school and they do a great job,” said Dann.
Lax Kxeen Elementary
Although this school year has had its changes, Lax Kxeen Elementary School also has many success stories for the 2011/2012 school year.
“We all really enjoy our work here. We’re quite passionate about what we do,” said principal Deb Taylor, who has been principal of the school for four years.
Taylor says a highlight of the year has been the reconfiguration of schools, which now means that kindergarten to grade five students attend Lax Kxeen, instead of staying until grade seven.
“It’s different because the kids are younger. There’s a nice feel and a nice energy in the school.”
Taylor also brought up Lax Kxeen’s new Strong Start program, which offers things such as baby massages and parenting instruction classes. The program has been successful at the school.
Another success this school year has been Lax Kxeen’s PAC.
“We have a good community and a really supportive PAC. We have lots of parents coming out this year for PAC meetings, which is a good support for the school,” Mentioned Taylor.
According to Taylor, a challenge for the school has been teachers’ job action.
“We’ve done very well in spite of some of those challenges. Kids are still learning and there’s a lot of really good activities going on in terms of academics and learning at our school.”
There’s plenty going on at Conrad Elementary school this year, students there are participating in everything from fitness programs with a Latin twist to readings from visiting novelists.
Promoting literacy has been one of the biggest goals at Conrad in past years and 2011/2012 has been no exception. In order to inspire students to read and write their own stories, Conrad has been visited by two different British Columbian authors; Eric Wilson and Caitlyn Vernon, with a third, Pamela Porter coming later this month.
Wilson is a former school teacher and started writing his faced-paced and exciting mystery books such as Vampires of Ottawa and The Kootenay Kidnapper after seeing some of his young students reject reading because they thought they were too boring. Vernon is from the North Coast, is a environmentalist and writes non-fiction for young readers including Nowhere Else on Earth: Standing Tall for the Great Bear Rainforest. Porter is a poet and novelist who has won a Governor General’s award in 2005 and a Canadian Children’s Literature Award.
The students are also learning about the life-cycle of Salmon by letting classes raise juvenile salmon which they will release later this year.
Something new this year is the Zumba fun fitness program which combines latin dance and exercise, and is available to students every second Wednesday during lunch hour.
Conrad has also been tackling the difficult issue of bullying, something that has been receiving much more attention in recent years. Aside from an anti-bullying day and students signing proclamations saying that they will stand up to bully’s the school is also working on teaching skills for resolving problems peacefully and the value of being a friend.
The elementary school is also focusing on teaching students technological skills, and students in intermediate classes are learning skills like how to prepare a power point presentation for a research project.
The students have even elected their own student council which gets to plan spirit days at the school, the most recent one being Valentines Day.
Roosevelt Park Elementary
It’s been an interesting year for many schools in Prince Rupert.
With many student populations being shifted around as the result of school closures and the new middle school, teachers and administration have been adjusting to new age groups and the challenge of making two student bodies into one.
No school in town illustrates these changes better than Roosevelt Park Elementary. Ever since Westview Elementary closed its doors for good at the end of last year, most of its students have been moved to Roosevelt along with their former school’s french immersion program.
With the older grades moved to the new middle school, Roosevelt has had to adjust not just to changes in the age of their students but also their language.
A challenge to be sure, but according to the principal, Susan Kobza, the transition has gone fairly smoothly, and that feedback from parents has been largely positive.
“We feel that it’s gone well, the whole transition and the absorption of French immersion program. There’s been lots of team-building between classes, they’ve done swimming trips together, ski trips, extra circular things to connect on a different level – not just academically or during the day,” says Kobza.
Kobza says that there was a bit of an adjustment period at first, with some students being resentful of the Westview kids coming to their school and taking up more space on an already crowded playground.
But the school made sure to intermingle the students in their classes as much as possible and Kobza says that since kids that age often make friends with kids in their own classes this has largely prevented cliques of Westview and Roosevelt students from forming.
“We’ve had talks with [Roosevelt students] saying that it wasn’t their fault that their school was closed and we need to do our best to welcome them here,” says Kobza.
The school has also made sure to integrate more French culture into school events as well.
“We’ve been more enriched because we’ve had more things like the Carnival has come here – the wonderful three-day celebration of Carnival that they used to have at Westview…We’ve even had some guests come in such as a bilingual magician that came last week,” says Kobza.
There isn’t any other school in School District 52 that is like Annunciation Elementary School.
Not only is the education facility the only private school in the community, it is also the only Prince Rupert school that incorporates religion into its’ students learning.
“We are very privileged to teach our faith and share it with our children every day,” said Laura Lowther, who has been principal of the school for five years now.
Another differentiation of the school is the fact that it’s the only school in the district to offer learning for students from kindergarten up to grade eight. This is the first year the school has offered classes for grade eight students, and Lowther says it has been a highlight of the year.
“We had lots of parents asking for the choice to have their children continue in Catholic education through to high school,” explained Lowther.
However, Lowther does admit that offering education up to grade eight has also caused some challenges.
“The newness of the program [has caused some challenges]. Finding out what’s best for staff and students is always an ongoing challenge in education,” she explained.
Another highlight of the year was the school’s presentation of Little Red Riding Hood, which had students of all ages participating in. The students pulled it all together, with the play running right before spring break.
Port Edward School
This will be one of the last years for Port Edward elementary school in its current incarnation.
The large, two-story building on Sunset Drive had fewer than 100 students last year, and with the introduction of a middle school it is now down to about 40 students. The school is such that there are three teachers teaching split classes covering kindergarten to grade five, as well as two Sm’algyax teachers and a number of support staff.
But the small size of the school, both in terms of student and staff numbers, hasn’t deterred the school spirit that can be found in Port Edward. From award assemblies to popcorn days to field trips to events for Halloween and Remembrance Day, students in Port Edward have had a busy semester to date with even more to come.
But for the “small school with a big heart” in sunny Port Edward, a bigger change than losing the grade six and seven students is in the air.
As students learn, crews are already working at the municipal building on construction of a new school that will better suit the size of the student body and the needs of the community. Gone will be the massive building, replaced by a single-storey addition that will include three classrooms and make use of the current community hall gymnasium space.
It’s a solution to the long discussed removal of a school in the community that will keep learners in Port Edward and benefit both the School District and the District of Port Edward.