Students head back to school Tuesday

  • Aug. 31, 2012 2:00 p.m.

Hundreds of students on the islands will be heading back to their classrooms next week, with schools opening Tuesday, Sept. 4 for the morning, and full days starting Sept. 5. School district superintendent Angus Wilson said that after the past year of unsettled labour relations, he’s looking forward to a more normal routine. “There isn’t job action this year so we’re looking forward to having a good relationship with teachers,” he said. “It will be easier.” The district is expecting fewer students this year than last, continuing a trend a declining enrollment that’s been going on for more than a decade. Despite that, Mr. Wilson said the district will be hiring a part-time counsellor to work in the three south-end schools, A.L. Mathers, Sk’aadgaa Naay and Queen Charlotte Secondary, in response to requests from the community. The district is also looking forward to having speech-language pathologists working in the schools again, he said. These positions were not filled for the past year, but Northern Health has hired new people. Maintenance work has been done over the summer at all the schools, but particularly A.L. Mathers in Sandspit, where three sides of the gym have been completely re-sided with metal to protect it from the elements. “The old shell was just plywood,” Mr. Wilson said. “This really is going to lengthen the lifespan of that building significantly.” A.L. Mathers principal Claudette Lavoie said the work at the gym also included adding two windows in the weight room. The Sandspit recreation committee bought the windows, and the school district covered the installation. “It looks beautiful, absolutely beautiful,” she said. “It looks like a new building.” At Tahayghen elementary in Masset, principal Bernadette Ouellet said there’s a brand new lunchroom awaiting the students. Kids have already been visiting the school this week, she said, excited and nervous about the approaching first day. At Sk’aadgaa Naay elementary in Skidegate, there’s a newly-renovated computer lab equipped with 30 brand new Apple computers, said principal Vicki Ives, and construction on a new greenhouse is getting underway. The school has received $50,000 for new playground equipment, and will be holding a community workshop in late September to discuss options. One thing is already certain: due to student demand, the new playground will have swings, she said. Sk’aadgaa Naay will be continuing with its daily breakfast program and once a week Farm to School program, which provides a full salad bar and soup lunch for all students. On Sept. 6, the school will be holding its third annual pancake breakfast between 7:30 and 8:30 am, Ms Ives said. All families are welcome. And the evening of Sept. 21, there will be an open house at the school and a hamburger barbecue, open to all. At Port Clements elementary, there’s a new principal. Verena Gibbs said she’s really looking forward to getting to know the community and working with the longtime staff at the school. Ms Gibbs has worked as a vice-principal at an independent school in Vancouver, and has also worked as a substitute teacher at G.M. Dawson and Tahayghen since moving to Masset a couple of years ago. She said Port will be continuing its healthy lunch program, which runs two days a week, and students will be preparing for this year’s science fair. At Queen Charlotte Secondary, there will be two new teachers: Rachel Fraser (who is returning) and Behn Cochrane, a former teacher at A.L. Mathers. Principal Kevin May said the school is offering more electives this year for grades 11 and 12 than ever before. Courses like History 12 and Writing 11 have attracted full classes, he said. Another new course this year is English First Peoples 10, which focuses on First Nations culture and literature in Canada. “We feel it’s important that we offer this course to students,” he said. “It’s a ministry-recognized course and it’s a new one for us.” The school also has a new teaching space, with the student common area having been repainted and equipped with whiteboards over the summer, transforming it into a classroom.Vice-principal Deavlan Bradley said the school will be taking a close look at its Learning Centre this year. The Learning Centre, in the school’s library, offers students a place to take courses outside the classroom, with options like online studies or correspondence. It’s been popular: last year, students took 63 courses there. Meanwhile, Mr. Bradley said, the grade 11 class will be getting an outdoor education opportunity, with a mid-September trip to the Mount Moresby Adventure Camp by Mosquito Lake. Queen Charlotte Secondary will be holding a “meet the teachers tea” on Sept. 20 at 7 pm. All parents, especially parents of grade 8 students, are encouraged to attend.

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