NWCC Academy raises concerns at school board

Superintendent Sandra Jones presented a juxtaposed look at the two programs at last week’s school council meeting.

In response to the Prince Rupert School District 52 (SD52) school board’s request to hear comparisons between the newly-developed Academy at Northwest Community College and their own class offerings through the school district, superintendent Sandra Jones presented a juxtaposed look at the two programs at last week’s school council meeting.

The Academy gives Prince Rupert-area Grade 11 or 12 students an opportunity for accelerated learning by offering first-year university courses at the same time as they are completing their high school diploma.

It’s largely aimed at home-schooled students or students taking online courses. The program hasn’t started up yet, but The Academy is currently offering more information on the Northwest Community College (NWCC) website, including a program cap (25 students) and tuition costs.

Jones’ report to the board touched on numerous aspects of both The Academy and SD52’s own curriculum.

She went on to say The Academy claims to offer a customized academic experience to meet specific needs, has courses that suit the student’s schedule and needs — from the fine arts to everything else — offers a low student-to-teacher ratio, has course work provided online and is a cost-saving measure for parents comparing The Academy’s tuition to other post-secondary schools. Jones added that The Academy also offers no extra-curricular or collaborative projects for the students, while the school district offers multiple extra-curricular programs, with an opportunity to work in groups and with others.

SD52, as outlined by the superintendent, also gives students customized learning opportunities and academic programs, offers 150 courses (while not teaching all simultaneously, they are available if there is a demand), offers online courses, work experience, apprenticeships and the ACE IT program – training in welding or construction electrician work — has a low student-to-teacher ratio (though not as low as The Academy’s), has a blend of online and in-class work available, does not charge tuition and offers multiple extra-curricular programs.

“We already offer a lot of fine arts credits in the schools. We can develop courses [if there is a need],” said Jones.

“I think if we’re really thinking about what a quality education looks like, I don’t think we need to go much further than what we’re offering, and I am sorry that the college saw that as an opportunity to take students from our system into that. We’ll see where it ends up … The value of Prince Rupert is in its diversity. When you go to school in Prince Rupert, you’re going to be exposed to a wide range of ideas and beliefs and customs and students of all stripes, with very talented, passionate educators at the front of those classes helping steer that. I think that is a healthy way to get your education.”

NWCC’s Ann Rowse, regional director of the Western Region, said The Academy was formed by the interests of business in the community.

“They asked us to specialize in giving kids an option in terms of expediting the graduation or accelerating the graduation [of advanced students],” Rowse said.

“We’ve heard the concerns of school districts and we took into consideration what the proponents were coming to us [with] and wanting to happen … So we really haven’t gone forward with it, we’re just trying to get clarification from the proponents that wanted it in the first place. But we’re very sympathetic to what the school district is saying and certainly we don’t want to harm any partnerships.”

Rowse continued to say that The Academy was meant to be a different path for students who are on the fast-track to graduating.

“We want to take everyone’s consideration into it and we don’t want to fragment any relationships, but this is just what some of the big players in the community and industry and business have said they’ve wanted, so we just put it out there … We really wanted to partner with the school district to make sure they were in no way offended or that it had any negative reflection on them. That was key to our message too,” she said.

 

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