School district 84 has five schools spread across remote communities along the western belt of Vancouver Island. (Google map)

Almost half of 2020 graduates from Vancouver Island West school district from First Nations

Amidst declining enrollment rate and challenges posed by connectivity, transport and COVID-19, almost 28 students graduated from SD 84

For a small school district on Vancouver Island, 28 graduates last week was a “good number.”

It’s even better that half the number of those who graduated are First Nations students.

SD84 superintendent, Lawrence Tarasoff, said that all the students that were expected to graduate this year, made it.

Even though the graduation numbers are still small comparatively, Tarasoff said that “it is a good number this year.”

Every year the numbers vary, depending upon how big the class is.

Compared to historical numbers, the graduation rate for SD 84 picked up in 2020.

In 2018/2019 there were 17 graduates from SD 84, and two of them were indigenous students, based on a provincial education ministry report on SD 84.

According to Tarasoff, the graduating numbers fluctuate every year. The overall student enrollment has also declined over the years.

With a little over 450 students across K-12 grades, SD84 consists of five schools spread across remote communities such as Gold River, Tahsis, Zeballos, and Kyuquot. Of which indigenous students account for 62 per cent of the population.

Despite COVID-19 and the collective challenges that students in these remote communities face with regards to connectivity and transport, Tarasoff said that he was glad the number of indigenous graduates went up in 2020.

READ MORE: Pre-existing woes might deepen after COVID-19 for remote Vancouver Island schools

A lot of indigenous students drop out of school programs, due to various “circumstantial” reasons, said Tarasoff.

“Some of them leave either because they have moved to a different place or there are other things happening in their life,” said Tarasoff.

As educators, they understand the “circumstances” and leave the door open for them to come back when “their life allows them to.”

“The important thing is for students to know that they are welcome back.”

The school district works together with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations to develop educational plans and philosophies for indigenous students. The programs are inclusive of First Nations’ traditional knowledge, culture and languages among other elements.

Educators also work together with students on a one on one basis to support them and help get through. Being a small school district, it gives them the advantage to give personal attention to students when they need it.

READ ALSO: As SD84 schools look to reopen, Kyuquot and Zeballos opt out

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