Like the thousands of local students heading back to school next week, School District 23 will also begin the new school year attempting to solve a few problems.
Superintendent Hugh Gloster said overall enrolment so far is very similar to last year’s numbers of 22,000 students, but three growing neighbourhoods are creating challenges.
In Lake Country, significant growth in areas that feed into Davidson Road Elementary—such as The Lakes development—has produced more children than the school can accommodate.
“We’ve got an interim plan for this upcoming year to transport overflow students over to Peter Greer (Elementary). We’re in the process of hiring an additional teacher at that school to help manage that overflow population,” said Gloster.
The Upper Mission is another pocket of the region that has forced School District 23 to do some juggling in order to accommodate students.
“Chute Lake Elementary is well overfull and we’re transporting 50-plus students down the hill to Anne McClymont Elementary. Both Anne McClymont and Dorothea Walker are filling up; we’re having to open more space, hire another teacher and so forth.”
Gloster added there are medium- and long-term plans to deal with the situations in Lake Country and the Upper Mission, including moving the Grade 7 students to modular classroom locations—at Okanagan Mission Secondary and George Elliott Secondary—and eventually building new middle schools in those regions.
The third area of difficulty for the school district is the overcrowded region feeding Shannon Lake Elementary; however, that problem should be solved when Mar Jok Elementary School opens in Rose Valley in September 2014.
“We’ve recognized (the growth areas) for some time now, so we’ve been able to put plans in place.”
Another task for the school district has been keeping up with quickly-evolving technology and utilizing it to help students learn.
“We’re definitely moving toward students and staff being able to connect wirelessly within our schools and being able to access the Internet to do research using their own devices.
“Obviously we have to have policy around that…we’ve been, behind the scenes, developing infrastructure to be able to accommodate that.”
A final hurdle is the uncertainty surrounding the negotiations between the provincial government and the unions that represent school support staff, which resume next Wednesday.
But Gloster said he is “cautiously optimistic” about the situation.
“We have done our work at the local level already; the local issues have largely been resolved for us.
“I’m sensing there’s a real desire to move toward concluding this in the near future…I’m optimistic we can avoid any kind of disruption.”