Kaleb Child, Elizabeth Cadwallader and Jillian Walkus appeared before the School Board last week to present a new grade 11 course to trustees.
Entitled Shared Understandings of the Kwak’wala Speaking Peoples, the proponents explained the course would provide cultural learning to students within a traditional framework.
“It needs to be more than just singing and dancing,” explained Child. He went on to describe the course as beginning from an idea of land or place, echoing traditional origin stories, and expanding to encompass topics like family values and the effects of colonization before finishing with a group project.
The course would later be expanded to include exploratory classes for grades 8 and 9, providing a seamless transition in terms of cultural learning. “Our students can feel a bit lost when they go to the big pond of high school,” explained Cadwallader, cultural teacher at Gwa’sala-Nakwaxda’dx School.
Trustees were united in welcoming the course, trustee Danita Schmidt saying that the course was “a long time coming. It’s important to have that continuity.”
Trustees voted unanimously to approve the course.
School District 85 Superintendent Scott Benwell informed trustees that the issue of schedule alignment at PHSS and NISS was “still in the process of discussion,” with school principles to be brought into the debate in the near future.
It is hoped that by aligning schedules the two high schools can collaborate to offer traditionally low-enrollment classes every year instead of on alternate years.
For example, if a handful of students at each school wanted to study chemistry, the two high schools could combine the students if their class schedules were aligned, using teleconferencing to offer the class to both sets of students simultaneously.
Benwell sought a motion of support for the idea of schedule alignment from the board.
Trustee Eric Hunter, mover of the motion, said, “I do support this concept. It has some positive features that would benefit the students.”
The motion passed unanimously.
Secretary-Treasurer John Martin brought the Openstudent program back for trustee discussion.
The program was previously touted as a potential low-cost replacement for the oft-criticized BCeSIS software, used in school administration.
While the province is seeking a commercially developed replacement, Saanich School District 63 has been preparing an alternative which will be offered at a fraction of the cost of the provincially backed product.
“It’s a made-in-B.C. solution to the replacement of BCeSIS,” explained Martin. He told the board that he and some of the trustees had a chance to look over the product through a teleconference.
“The consensus was that this is the direction that we should be going,” said Martin.
Martin asked VINTA representative Fred Robertson for his opinion on the product. “I think it’s brilliant,” he said. “It’s intuitive, there are options for reporting… I don’t see any drawbacks.”
Martin asked trustees to approve $60,000 to replace failing boilers at the former Robert Scott School in Port Hardy.
He noted that while the building was not currently being used as an educational facility it remained the property of the school board, saying, “We do need to keep the building maintained. It’s $60,000 to replace (the boilers) but it’s a $2 million building and we need to protect that asset.”
Martin also pointed out that in the event of an upswing in student enrolment the building could again be used as a school.
In addition, the new boilers would be much more energy efficient and cost less to run on a day-to-day basis.
Trustees approved the request.
School act changes
Superintendent Benwell informed trustees of recent changes to the School Act which has been amended to reflect cross registration for k-9 grades.
“The potential is for learners to go outside our district,” he said.
He explained that the bill indicates that students can go to either traditional bricks and mortar institutions, make use of distributed learning or a combination of the two.
Trustee Carol Prescott asked whether there had been any indication of an impending change to the funding model for elementary education.
Benwell informed her that a ministerial workgroup would meet to discuss how the changes would be implemented.
Trustee Lawrie Garrett asked whether the Superintendent saw the changes a positive move.
“If I look at it through the lens of learners then certainly,” said Benwell.
Garrett clarified his question by asking Benwell if saw an opportunity to offer SD85 courses to a wider audience.
Benwell accepted the possibility in principle, saying,“If we have a course that we can put out there and people want to do.”
Martin announced that the district had received approval from the Ministry of Education for the purchase of three new school buses.
The district will replace an 84-, a 72- and a 20-seater model from its existing fleet with a pair of 76-seater buses and a 54-seater model.
Martin told trustees that the district hopes to receive the invoice before the end of the month to avoid the reintroduction of the PST in April.