Changes all about choices

Combined secondary opens doors to students on Tuesday

  • Sep. 6, 2015 10:00 a.m.

The biggest change in Mission schools in years officially gets underway on Tuesday, when the reconfigured middle and secondary schools welcome students back.

Mission Secondary will become the district’s lone senior secondary school, with Heritage Park and Hatzic becoming middle schools. MSS will be home to about 1,250 Grade 10 to 12 students. As middle schools, Heritage Park will have 725 Grade 7 to 9 students, and Hatzic at 800. Elementary schools will now be responsible for educating kindergarten to Grade 6 students.

While the shift to a middle and senior secondary education model was controversial with some parents and students, Mission Secondary principal Jim Pearce said the end result will offer students more choices and provide them with enhanced opportunities – both in high school and beyond.

“This will give kids more opportunity for learning, with a personalized learning approach,” he said.

Pearce said a key reason for reconfiguration was locating enough students at one school to offer them significantly more choices.

“We will have at least 12 new courses,” he said. “These were not offered last year in the district.”

Among them will be 3D design gaming, animation and robotics – all courses designed to capture student interest in technology, and offer future opportunities.

There will also be food service courses. MSS has a new cafeteria with a Red Seal chef, and a restaurant and coffee shop. These facilities are part of the learning experience, and students will learn valuable skills in food preparation and serving.

There will also be more specialized courses, such as business law – something that has not been available before.

Advanced placement courses for academic students wanting to go to university will be offered in calculus, literature and language literature. These allow students to collect university credits while still in high school.

Pearce also gave Biology 12 as an example of expanded course offerings. Last year, there were two blocks of Biology 12 offered at MSS. This year there will be six. Students who want to take the subject will have more chances of fitting it within their timetables, with more seats available.

Pearce said teachers to be able to concentrate in teaching their specialties, and not have to take on additional courses to fill their course loads.

“I am very excited about our staff,” Pearce said.

Most of the teaching staff have taught at one of the three secondaries in the past, and secured the new jobs that were posted. There are also a couple of new teachers.

There will also be enhanced sports opportunities at all three schools. There will be a lacrosse academy at Mission Secondary which is already attracting students from out of the district, and enticing some Mission students back from other districts.

The popular Mission Secondary football program will continue, and now there will be football teams at both of the middle schools. Football began at MSS 11 years ago.

There have been some renovations to the 63-year-old building to prepare it for its new role.

While the decision to go to middle schools and one secondary did cause concerns when the board of education made the final decision last October, Pearce said subsequent think tank sessions allowed students and parents to voice their ideas for courses.

“The community has been very involved in the process,” he said.

“Any time there is change, people say ‘oh my.’ But we are doing this to provide learning for all, and we couldn’t say that before. We are now offering the opportunity to learn at a high level.

“Here, we can put in 1,250 students with a couple of adjustments. When a school has under 800 students, you just can’t offer students what they want anymore.”

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