City high schools to be reconfigured

High schools will be welcoming more students in the coming years after the board of education voted on a new grade configuration Tuesday night.

High schools will be welcoming more students in the coming years after the board of education voted on a new grade configuration Tuesday night.

After five months of consultations with the community and district staff, the School District 72 board voted to change the grade configuration in district schools to kindergarten to Grade 5 elementary schools, Grade 6-8 middle schools and Grade 9-12 secondary schools. The change will take effect in September 2012.

Throughout the consultation process, this configuration option has been one of two with the greatest support. The other popular model featured Grade 7 and 8 middle schools.

In his report to the board, Assistant Superintendent Jim Ansell recommended the adopted model saying the Grade 6-8 scenario met the two primary goals of the configuration review. It creates enough student population for viable secondary schools and creates enough room to meet the needs of a growing population in the elementary schools – whereas the Grade 7-8 middle school model would only address the issue of declining student population at secondary schools.

“As well, this scenario has been tried in many places in B.C. with almost no success. It is a common scenario in the United States where it is driven by the need to fill spaces in over-crowded schools. It is always an economic choice rather than an educational choice,” said Ansell.

The decision to hold off introducing the new model until 2012 was also recommended by Ansell.

“Throughout the consultation it has been stated that implementation would be based on the best interest of the students and the schools. Since early December, the most significant voice of the consultations has been an encouragement that the district takes its time with the implementation,” said Ansell.

Board Chair Helen Moates agreed that to ensure a smooth transition there should be no rush in making changes.

“A mid-sized school district with declining enrolment will continuously be challenged to thoughtfully deliver an excellent education to all of its students. The reconfiguration to Grade 6 to 8 middle schools and September 2012 implementation date will provide all our partners, including North Island College, the opportunity to work together to ease the transition for students and their families; allow parent groups to plan for year-end celebrations and give staff time to develop solid plans and collaboratively create new school cultures,” said Moats.

Dr. Jan Lindsay, president of North Island College, is also pleased the timeline will allow for planning to achieve better separation of space between Timberline students and the college.

“The board’s decision to create high schools that include Grade 9 students means the NIC/Timberline campus will essentially become a Grade 9 to 16 education environment. While there are some educational advantages that support Grade 11 and 12 students transitioning into post-secondary education, this broad range of grade levels requires appropriate separation of space, such as separate entrances and learning areas,” said Lindsay.

A configuration review committee will begin looking at issues related to implementation that were identified during the public process.

As part of the implementation process, the school district will also be working with the college to create more distinction between Timberline and the college, while maintaining the learning opportunities that the shared campus affords.

Information concerning the implementation, as well as question and answer documents, will be made available throughout the coming year through school newsletters and the district website at www.sd72.bc.ca/configuration.asp

The board of education had committed to a review of the configuration of district schools because of the impact of declining enrolment at the secondary level and increasing enrolment and crowding in some elementary schools.

Three public meetings were held from October through December, as well as meetings on Quadra Island.

The public was also given the opportunity to ask questions, comment, and indicate its preference through an online forum on the school district’s website.

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