SD72 ‘cautiously optimistic’ about new year

Superintendent says start to new school year has gone smoothly and enrolment numbers are higher than projections

School is back in session, which means that school district administrators and trustees have been back at work making sure things go smoothly.

According to Tom Longridge, superintendent of School District 72 (SD72), who addressed the board of trustees at the first public meeting of the school year Tuesday night, it’s too early in the year to get ahead of themselves, but he is happy with how the year has started.

“This time last year, we weren’t able to meet, because we were in job action,” Longridge said. “It’s nice to be able to actually open the schools in September this year, and it’s gone really well.

“All in all, everybody’s getting settled in, and it was a tremendous start.”

The school year opened – before the kids headed to class – with three professional development days for teachers and staff prior to the first day of instruction.

This was a first for the district, and Longridge said it was a risk that really paid off.

One of those days, Longridge told the board, saw 40 community organizations set up tables throughout the Timberline gym to network and increase communication between the schools and other community services.

“We’ve heard nothing but wonderful responses,” Longridge said. “It was about looking at how we are doing in improving our connections within the community, and it seems to be the consensus that it really worked.”

Trustee Joyce McMann echoed those sentiments.

“It was quite different from everything we’ve done in the past in terms of that ‘kick-off’ Pro-D day,” she said. “It really had an energy to it that I think was distinctive to anything we’ve done before. And the people around the room who were there representing their piece of the community, I think really felt some excitement about being connected in that way to the school district. It was terrific.”

So how are the numbers? The district gets its core funding from the government based on enrolments, so that’s a key piece of the equation when determining the state of the operation.

“Let’s say I’m cautiously optimistic,” Longridge said. “It looks like we’re going to be up about 50 more students than we projected, which is good because we thought we were going to be slightly below last year’s enrolment, but it looks like we’ll be close if not above.”

The influx of students seems to be mainly in early grades, Longridge said, but the figures haven’t been finalized yet.

“We still have to sort that out. We seem to be higher in elementary,” Longridge told the board when asked where these additional students came from. “We’ve certainly reorganized some staffing to accommodate schools that needed it in order to create some space. I really commend the (human resources) department. They’ve done an outstanding job in determining where space would be best utilized and in regard to how schools would be staffed to make sure there are places for everyone who showed up.”

Quadra Elementary gained staff, for example.

“Because we could feel fairly comfortable that we had the numbers of students (in that school),” Longridge said. “That school in particular really benefitted from some extra staffing.”

There were also additional staff added to both secondary schools to accommodate the 52 international students – 26 in each facility – who have come to Campbell River through the district’s International Program.

The next trustee board meeting is Sept. 22, to discuss and disclose the district’s audited financial statements.

The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m. at the district office, 425 Pinecrest Road, beside Rod Brind’Amour Arena.