By Chris Kennedy, Superintendent
It’s January, and one of the things we do to kick off the year is to start thinking about our enrolment and scheduling for the following September. In December, our Board approved a series of new secondary courses and programs, and the new passion-based education on offer is very impressive.
For just over a decade, we’ve been offering our premier academy programs. Starting with hockey and soccer all those years ago, we will now be offering 10 different academy-style programs open to secondary students from all schools in September 2016. The most recent additions include field hockey, dance, rugby and mechatronics-robotics.
One of the issues we faced about four years ago was that students interested in a particular academy program would have to transfer to one of our high schools to participate. Students should be able to attend their local secondary school with their friends, but have access to programs for part of their schedule at another site. Calendars were aligned so that all secondary schools had the same professional development days. Timetables were coordinated, so that blocks rotate in the morning, and afternoon blocks became fixed. These changes have led to the idea that at the secondary level, we are one district with three campuses.
The majority of the academy programs take place in the afternoon, with some offering classes before school and on weekends. In addition to these programs we have several courses that are open to students from all schools – YELL (an entrepreneurship program that runs after school and partners students with business leaders in the community, FAST (First Aid Swim Training, where students earn credentialing towards becoming a lifeguard) and a District Honour Choir (that practices in the evening and performs locally and beyond). In Art West 45 students can attend their own high school one day and every other day participate in a program that allows those passionate about arts to get extended time in this area. It is the same principle for ACE-IT Carpentry where students from across the North Shore attend the program every other day working towards their Level 1 carpentry credential.
In all we are now at about 15 and growing in the number of options we have available that allow students to pursue their passions as part of their school program – coming together with students from across the district who share these interests.
There is wonderful value in students attending their local school but we also need to find creative ways for students to pursue their passions. Five years ago, none of the programs existed that would allow students from a variety of schools to attend. We continue to find ways for students to pursue their passions, which is all part of building a system that is relevant, connected and engaging for students learning in our schools.
Chris Kennedy, Superintendent