Islands schools ready to welcome students

  • Sep. 1, 2010 7:00 p.m.

It’s back to the classrooms for students this coming Tuesday (Sept. 7), and staff at schools all over the islands are busy this week getting ready. At G.M. Dawson secondary school in Masset, principal Lorrie Joron said she’s excited about a new student leadership course for grades 8, 9 and 10 that has 17 students signed up. The students will be learning all kinds of skills, from public relations and communications to helping organize regular school assemblies. G.M. Dawson will also have an active student council this year. Athlete Rick Hansen, who made a hugely successful visit to the islands in June, has given Dawson a package called the “Rick Hansen School Program” and the school will be making use of this to teach social responsibility, Ms Joron said. “He was amazing, such a nice guy,” she said. Ms Joron said the school’s change rooms have been completely renovated over the summer and have new floors and working showers, something they haven’t had for a while. The Masset Learning Centre has moved into a room off the library and will continue to offer students the opportunity to take courses that aren’t part of the school’s regular offerings, like Physics 12, Ms Joron said. Dawson is welcoming one new staff member this year. Zoe Sikora is a UVic grad who has been working in California for the past 10 years but is excited to be back in BC, Ms Joron said. She will be teaching special ed. The school gardens are bursting with carrots and onions right now, and these fresh veggies will be offered to students as snacks over the first few weeks, Ms Joron said. Dawson will also be participating in a fruit and vegetable program that sees local produce delivered to the school every week. Finally, Dawson will be celebrating its 40th anniversary this October and Ms Joron said staff and students will be looking for ways to celebrate. The school has been around for longer than 40 years, but it was formerly known as the Masset Public School. In October 1970, it was renamed G.M. Dawson. At the district’s biggest school, Skidegate’s Sk’aadgaa Naay elementary, principal Vicki Ives is welcoming several new staff members, including Vanessa and Dave Wahl from the Central Coast, James Reid from Masset and Sheila Karrow from Queen Charlotte. Ms Ives is also new to the principal position, although she has worked at the school for many years and was previously vice-principal. Teacher Susan Wright takes on the vice-principal position this year. Ms Ives said the school year will be getting off to a fun and yummy start with a pancake breakfast at the school Thursday morning (Sept. 9) for students and their families. The free breakfast will be on from 7:30 til 8:30 am – just bring plates, cup and cutlery. The school is setting up a multi-purpose room that will be called the TLC room (TLC stands for “tender, loving care”) and can be used for a variety of things, Ms Ives said. Small groups of students could go there to work quietly, or it could be used by a child who is hungry or tired. Sk’aadgaa Naay will have a new French Immersion class this year for grades 1-2-3, in addition to a grade 4-5-6 French Immersion class. The outside of the school was painted over the summer, there are new lockers in the intermediate classrooms and the gym floors have been redone and look really good, Ms Ives said. Port Clements elementary also has a new principal, with longtime teacher Ritu Marrs taking over the position. Ms Marrs said the school grounds look very different, since the old school building was torn down over the summer, leaving a big space that will become a playground area. The parents group has new playground equipment and it should be installed soon, she said. New to the teaching staff at Port this year is Josina Davis, who will be working part-time at the school, Ms Marrs said. Ms Davis has worked in the school before and has lots of experience teaching drama, Ms Marrs said. The school is looking very green after inheriting house plants from community nurse Jonna Mattiesing, Ms Marrs said, and there has been lots of work done over the summer in the change rooms and gym. “The school looks lovely and clean,” she said. “Everybody is here, getting ready.” Port’s word for the year will be “balance”, she added. At A.L. Mathers school in Sandspit, principal Claudette Lavoie is looking forward to being in the school full-time rather than part-time. She will be doing more teaching in the place of intermediate teacher Elaine Kwasnicki, who retired in June after working in Sandspit since 1975. “It’s a huge loss for the school,” Ms Lavoie said. She added that even though Ms Kwasnicki has retired, she spent most of the summer in the school, organizing her lesson plans and special materials so that they can be used again. Ms Lavoie said she is looking forward to all-day kindergarten starting up for the first time at ALM, with as many as six children expected to enroll. The out-of-school program, also known as e-school, is another highlight. The program is run out of ALM but has students from all over the islands, and six of them graduated last year, Ms Lavoie said. If anyone is interested in this program, they can call the school at 637-5454 to find out more. There’s a couple of new teachers and a couple of new courses at Queen Charlotte Secondary, said vice-principal Kevin May. Ruben Jatel is returning and will be teaching PE, French and math, while Jennifer Jury will be teaching home economics and creative writing, and running the school’s very successful hot lunch program. Ms Jury is looking for parent volunteers to help out with the lunches, so if you have any time to spare, give her a call at the school. The two new courses at QCSS this year are creative writing, mainly for grade 10 and 11s, Mr. May said, and Marine Biology 11, which will be offered in the second semester and taught by Rachel Fraser. Parents might want to mark Sept. 16 on their calendars. Mr. May said QCSS will be holding a “meet the teachers” tea at 7 pm, followed by the first parent advisory committee meeting of the year at 7:30 pm. All parents, especially parents of grade 8s, are encouraged to attend. Meanwhile, everything else at QCSS is pretty much the same, Mr. May said. “The first week of school is business as usual, we’ll be off and running,” he said. “We’re just waiting to welcome everyone back.” At Tahayghen elementary in Masset, principal Cheryl MacKenzie said the school is looking better and brighter, thanks to lots of upgrades over the summer. The gym floor has been redone, there are new primary bathrooms, and new lighting. “It’s a lot brighter, it looks really nice,” she said. Ms MacKenzie said she will be building on last year’s successful math groupings, which saw the students working in groups at the same learning level rather than being divided by grade. This year, students will have language arts groupings as well as math. “The kids will go into classrooms where there are other kids working at their level,” she said. “The parents seem to be very happy with it.” Tahayghen is also welcoming a new teacher. Allison Mullen, a first year teacher from Kelowna, will be teaching a grade 2-3 class, Ms MacKenzie said.