Leading up to Thursday night’s public school board meeting Port Ed officials were making plans to attend the public session to express their reservations about any plan that includes closure of the school in Port Edward.
That prospect seemed to come out of the blue in the last few weeks as the possible Port Ed closure was added to a growing list in Prince Rupert that now includes, Westview, Seal Cove and Kanata schools.
The Port Edward closure if it were to take place, would see students from that community do much the same as students from Dodge Cove and Metlakatla do, travel daily back and forth to Prince Rupert for their education. However, the volume of students travelling from Port Edward would be higher in numbers, than those that currently take water taxis and then bus to school in Rupert.
Those closure recommendations and a number of other issues that are percolating around the school district have made local Education the main attraction in the news this week.
The Northern View presented a review of the current closure situation, which included a look at the closure plan as well as the suggestion that one of the city's high schools be closed and turned into a junior high.
Thursday’s Daily News devoted two stories to education, the first a front page headline story focusing on the worries of Port Edward over the status of their school and the second one featuring details of the District’s plans to help those students considered most “at risk” in our community.
PORT ED FURIOUS AS SCHOOL IS CONSIDERED FOR CLOSURE
Angry mayor says closing school ‘will kill us’ and vows to find a way to save it
By Patricik Witwicki
The Daily News
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Port Edward councillors plan on attending tonight's school board public meeting intent on making it clear that they will fight to the end to keep their school from closing.
At first, Port Edward didn't realize how serious the threat of closure was that hung over Port Edward Elementary school, even though Mayor Dave MacDonald was suggesting everyone on council attend. But when the realization clicked in that the District Visioning Committee has recommended closing the Port Edward school by 2010 in addition to the Rupert schools (Kanata, Seal Cove, and Westview) during Tuesday's council meeting, the mood changed and the battle lines had been drawn.
"If they close the school, they're not bringing it back," said MacDonald. "That would just kill us. So we have to find a way to fight to keep it open."
Coun. Murray Kristoff questioned the logic of closing the school, when busing Port Edward’s kids to Rupert would be so expensive.
“The way I see it, if you close the school, you bus all the kids to Rupert,” he said. “And a Grade 1 kid on the bus (with teenagers)?
Discussion regarding the closure of Port Edward Elementary has come up before, and the district’s Chief Administrative Officer agreed with Kristoff’s comment.
“The last time this came up, when they were talking about this, (I was told) they would go into the red $120,000 busing the kids,” he said. “So it would be even more now,” Kristoff then asked how much money from the collection of school taxes within the community actually went back into local schools.
“We collect $400,000 to $500,000 for schools in our community, and that goes to Victoria,” said Bedard.
Coun. Christine MacKenzie reminded council that it wasn’t set in stone, and that these were simply recommendations from the DVC. But that doesn’t mean the recommendations won’t be pushed through in the near future, and MacDonald reiterated the importance of tonight’s town hall meeting.
“We all know we want a lot more discussion before anything happens.”
Members of the public are invited to attend tonight’s Town Hall meeting at 7 p. m. It is being held in the Charles Hays multi purpose room and will be hosted by senior school district staff and school board trustees, who will answer questions and hear concerns.
Those interested in posing questions are asked to submit them in writing to Secretary Treasurer Kim Morris by emaling firstname.lastname@example.org
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Pages one and three
With one of the "neediest" student populations in British Columbia entering the Prince Rupert school system, there are a number of actions District 52 plans to implement to give students an improved education.
In conjunction with the School District 52 Senior Staff Recommendations presented at Monday's special board meeting, Director of Instruction Bill Ford presented the District's Improvement Team's new Student Achievement Plan, which aims to address the rising number of at-risk students and the low graduation rate of Aboriginal students.
Based on the results of the Clyde Hertzman’s Early Development Instrument (EDI) data and District 52’s own Kindergarten Assessment tool, there is concern about a large percentage of children entering the school system. Based on the district’s Kindergarten Assessment, 47 per cent of Kindergarten students this school year were considered “at-risk” in terms of basic skill development for entry into school, while 74 per cent of students entering kindergarten were considered “at-risk” in phonological development.
What is also concerning is that these percentages for at-risk kindergarten students have doubled during the last four school years in both categories. The only positive aspect is that the percentage of aboriginal students in these at-risk categories has decreased in that time period – although only slightly.
What the new Student Achievement Plan is looking to implement in hopes of combating these negative trends is capping kindergarten class sizes at 20 students and ensuring that all kindergarten classes have a dedicated child care worker, as well as expanding the all-day program, but based on the successes of these two schools and the Ministry of Education’s interest in implementing the program province-wide, soon every school could be utilizing full-day Kindergarten classes.
“So far, we have one year’s worth of evidence in terms of how those pilot programs are operating, so we have qualitative evidence based on our Kindergarten Assessment, and we also have qualitative evidence based on parent and teacher feedback,” said Ford.
“All indications are that this all-day model that we are piloting is a success. Based on the needs of the kids walking through our doors in kindergarten, I’m not sure how we as a district could not embrace this as a model.”
Other changes the Student Achievement Plan calls for are increasing the amount of time elementary counselors spend in district schools – the district currently employs two full time counsellors.
Ford says those two counsellors have reported a significant increase in the demand for their services, especially in the last five to seven years, as each of them has reported 100 students on their direct caseloads this past year.
Another increase would come in the form of teacher-librarian time, which Ford says currently equals 0.2 of a full-time position dedicated to the library for each of the district’s schools.
Some other key actions that the district could soon see implemented with the re-allocation of resources from school closures are the establishment of reading program mentors at all elementary schools to promote literacy among students, as well as a rethinking and redesigning of the current alternate school program for students in Grades 8 to 12.
The District Improvement Team is also looking to establish more learning experiences in classrooms that reflect Aboriginal cultures to better engage Aboriginal students, such as the establishment and staffing of Aboriginal cultural rooms in both secondary schools that would hopefully improve those students’ sense of welcome and belonging.