Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Change is Coming - Public Meetings for Elementary Catchment Changes

School District 60 is looking forward to the opening of Margaret Ma Murray Community School, located in the northwest quadrant of Fort St John, in September, 2018.  Building this school has been an exciting, collaborative project that will enhance the educational offerings of the district as well as provide some relief for current space constrictions in a growing school district.

Part of the planning process requires the redrawing of some elementary school catchment area boundaries in order to populate the new school.  These changes will potentially affect families with children currently attending  CM Finch, Ecole Central School of the Arts, Charlie Lake Elementary School and Bert Ambrose Elementary School.  

It is very important that trustees gather public input on all of the issues and variables to be taken into consideration as the planning process proceeds.  In order to gather information, three public meetings have been scheduled as follows:

Monday, October 30th at 7pm at Ecole Central Elementary School of the Arts
10215 99th Avenue

Thursday, November 9th at 7pm at CM Finch Elementary School
10904 106th Street

Tuesday, November 28th at 7pm at School District 60 Board Office
10112 105 Ave

Written submissions will also be accepted by the Board up to December 22nd, 2017.  They can be dropped off at the School Board Office.  Your trustees very much look forward to hearing from you.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Still on the Run - Cross Country revisited!

A superintendent's day can get busy. It can often feel like any number of issues are chasing you or trying to run you down. Once again this week  I had literally more than 2oo challenges behind me and it felt pretty good.  Our district held the final run of the cross country season and, as I have in past seasons, I was the rabbit leading the runners onto the  course. Admittedly I  have a bit of an advantage riding my mountain bike, but its still more than a little intimidating hearing the starter call go and hearing the thunder of hundreds of little feet charging on to the trail behind you.

I enjoy ferrying the leaders through the course, but I also like to make sure everyone finishes. A student once told me, "For the leaders you're the rabbit, but for us at the back, you're the dragon!" I was taken a little a back by this fearsome description until I realized what she was saying was that I was the person who literally gets to "drag in" the back of the pack. Every year those at the front push me a little harder to stay ahead, but its often the conversations I have with those runners at the back of the pack that provide the greatest humour and inspiration. Over the years I've seen falls, nosebleeds, side stitches and other bumps and bruises, but in almost every case, the affected runners have bounced back and determinedly completed the course, finishing to the cheers and support of their team mates, parents and coaches. 

Cross country is a great participation sport. It allows the fastest runners the competition of racing against their peers and the clock, and it also allows others to challenge themselves against a distance. I have experienced acts of tremendous spirit, enthusiasm and sportsmanship at both ends of a race.  The smiles at the finish line, are ample evidence that every finisher feels the thrill of completing a race well run. 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Facilitating Learning: New Portables Arriving

Providing our students with safe comfortable facilities is one of SD 60's core values. Meeting this requirement can be easier said than done in a growing district, replete with aging structures. Our newest school, the Margaret Ma Murray Community School, will be a great example of a 21st century learning space, but it is still several months from completion.  Most of our schools are already populated far beyond their normal capacities, with every available corner converted to classroom use. In such situations adding portables or modular classrooms becomes the go to option.

In BC portable classrooms have become synonymous with overcrowded schools. In Surrey, BC's largest school district,  50 additional portable classrooms were added this fall to bring the district's total to over 300. SD 60 is not quite at that level,  but a further 6 modular classrooms  are being installed this year in addition to others previously added to schools last year. Restored contract language with regards to class size, combined with a student population that is growing by about 200 students a year, means that classroom space has become increasingly hard to come by.

In the past, portables have had very bad PR. Once installed they rarely moved, yet their temporary nature frequently meant that they were inferior to regular classrooms in their construction, layout and feel. Students and teachers felt isolated and disconnected from the rest of the school. Such is not always the case with the newest modular classrooms. Separated from the bustle of busy hallways, they can be bigger, brighter and quieter than learning spaces in the main building. Upgrades in building codes and construction now mean that portables can be bright and vibrant spaces with the ability to better control their own environments. No longer afterthoughts, or a home for district furniture castoffs, they can be provided with new and innovative fixtures. In some schools, getting the portable can almost be an advantage, an opportunity to test out innovative ideas in teaching and classroom furnishings.

In a perfect world districts would have modern facilities designed with the comfort and learning of staff and students always in mind. Until that world arrives, SD 60 will utilize the available spaces and opportunities on hand, doing what we can to ensure all our facilities, portable and permanent alike, are designed to facilitate all learning matters.