Campbell River School District (SD72) trustees were treated to tours of two new secondary schools in the Victoria area during their recent Vancouver Island School Trustees’ Association (VISTA) conference, and were impressed with what they saw.
Royal Bay Secondary in Colwood and Belmont Secondary in Langford are going into their second year of operation, and were designed to reflect the changing face of education in the province.
“One of the things that struck me during one of the sessions was the level that one of the schools was setting in engaging students in setting their own expectations and creating a culture that they truly own through consultation and collaboration,” said SD72 Trustee Joyce McMann at last week’s public meeting in discussing the schools. “I think that’s really part and parcel in this business of helping children find stability and alleviate some of the anxiety they may have, by giving them a sense of empowerment.”
Besides the development of culture and community-building within the schools, however, the other take-away for some of the trustees was the physical aspects of the facilities themselves.
“They really are beautiful schools,” said Trustee Gail Kirschner, who presented the report about the VISTA conference to the board.
While Trustee John Kerr agreed wholeheartedly with that assessment, what he was particularly impressed by was that “both schools really focused on community,” he said. “Both schools had large areas where students could meet – both in small groups and large groups. They had wonderful central areas – I don’t want to call them common areas, but they are community areas – where people could meet, and it looked to me that it was a really well thought-out building in terms of human dynamics and human interactions.”
“A lot of spaces were very versatile,” McMann agreed. “They were able to open up walls and close walls and create spaces depending on what the need was, and I think that’s very insightful.”
During the construction of the schools in 2014, School District 62 (Sooke) Superintendent Jim Cambridge said that was kind of the whole idea.
“The way we’re designing and building the new schools is significantly different than the way it’s been done in the past,” Cambridge said. “We’re trying to make the notion of collaboration and teamwork – which is central to everything you read about what jobs and expectations and careers actually feature – part of the education of the kids. You walk through Belmont right now, you see very long corridors with basically 20 different individual schools along each side of them. It’s very hard for the teachers to collaborate, even when they want to. Well, we’re creating an atmosphere (in the construction of the new schools) where we’re forcing that issue a little bit.”
Kerr was clearly envious of the new schools, but also proud of the direction that new educational facilities are taking.
“I looked at these two schools and I thought, ‘my God, look what they’ve got down here.’”