(Black Press Media Photo)

School district to ramp up psychologist search in 2019

Prince Rupert has not had a full time district psychologist for more than 10 years

School District 52 (SD52) is stepping up its efforts to recruit a full time district psychologist to conduct assessments of Prince Rupert’s students in 2019.

On Jan. 7, the district’s school board received a letter signed by eight Pineridge Elementary School teachers stating that there are at least a dozen students at the school waiting for different types of assessments, including a psychologist’s assessment.

READ MORE: District psychologists, teacher shortage discussed at school baord trsutee debate

Irene LaPierre, superintendent for SD52, said finding a full time psychologist is a task the district is focussed on.

“Having a psychologist that can support our district or school, parents and most importantly our students is one of our highest priorities,” said Irene LaPierre, superintendent for SD52.

The role of a psychologist’s assessment is to provide a detailed report of a child’s learning that will help teachers form an educational plan specific to that student.

The report is also used to help determine whether or not the child can be classified as having a learning or intellectual disability, which could provide access to funding and other resources for the student.

SD52 currently has one psychologist under contract who conducts 40 assessments per year at schools in the district, but there has been a consistent push from both teachers and parents to bring one to Prince Rupert on a full-time basis.

LaPierre confirmed that there has not been a full-time psychologist in the district for more than 10 years.

Recruitment was also hot-button issue during the 2018 school board trustee debate where several of the candidates voiced strong opinions about what the district needs to do to increase student access to assessments.

During that debate, Kristy Meier, who is currently a member of the school board, referred to lack of access to a psychologist’s assessment as “unacceptable”, stating that the wait times for designations can put the students at a disadvantage.

LaPierre said that the district has been putting considerable time into its recruitment push over the past few months. This includes going to recruitment and career fairs in universities both inside and outside the province.

“It’s one of our highest priorities,” she said.

LaPierre also stated that she faced a similar situation where she previously served in School District No. 83 (North Okanagan-Shuswap). That district — which has 6,000 students — has a similar arrangement as Prince Rupert with a contract psychologist conducting an average of 40 assessments per year.

“For a district one-third the size of a district of 6,000, we do the best we can,” she said. “I think that where it lacks is if we were to have a district psychologist, then there’s always that follow-up piece that we don’t get necessarily under contract as much as we would if we had someone in house … I think that with this round of recruiting, fingers crossed that some will be enticed to come up to Prince Rupert.”

READ MORE: Collaboration key to success for new SD52 superintendent in Prince Rupert

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Matthew Allen | Reporter
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