In just 11 days, more than 6,200 school-aged children and teens will be heading back to the classroom as another school year begins in Mission.
While every year presents new challenges and changes, perhaps the biggest change in Mission is the addition of a new/old elementary school as Stave Falls Elementary – for kindergarten to Grade 6 – is reopening its doors.
According to Angus Wilson, superintendent of schools, Stave Falls has approximately 46 students registered so far this year.
“Obviously it’s a small school, but it’s a growing interest.”
In fact, a new teacher had to be hired to meet the enrolment numbers.
“Originally it was only going to open with two teachers and a principal, but a third teacher has been added,” Wilson said.
While the addition of a 13th elementary school – to go along with two middle schools and one high school, as well as the Summit Learning Centre, Fraserview Learning Centre and Riverside College – is exciting, it’s not the only change happening at the school district this year.
Recently, assistant school superintendent Larry Jepsen retired, leaving an important vacancy to fill.
Wilson said the new assistant superintendent will be Karen Alvarez, who was a district principal in Surrey. She was chosen from 28 other candidates who applied for the job.
“It’s an important job, as she will be the lead on educational change and implementation in the district,” Wilson said.
Another change is the addition of a new program.
“We are continuing with our literacy and numeracy programs as we did last year, but we are adding something new for intermediate students.”
The new program will assist students in Grades 4-8 with reading and literature.
Wilson said there is one new aspect to the school year that he is excited about.
“We are doing a lot more work this year tracking individual students to try to ensure their success and graduation.”
He explained that, thanks to new software infrastructure, they can now obtain an overall picture on a student’s progress throughout the years.
It can show whether a student’s grades are slipping compared to previous school years or if they are missing more days than normal.
“It’s kind of pre-emptive and predictive. It’s telling us a story,” Wilson said.
With the information, they can decide whether students need any supports to help them, ahead of time, rather than after.
New for the 2019/20 school year is the splitting of Mission’s distributive learning school, the Summit Learning Centre.
While it used to all be located at Fraserview, this year students in Grades 10-12 will see the Summit program run out of one of the portables at Mission Secondary, while services for students in Grades K-9 will be run out of Silverdale Elementary School.
“Summit is a distributive learning program, which means students work under the supervision of a teacher, but much of the work happens at home and in the community, with occasional visits to the physical site,” Wilson said.
He called it the modern version of home schooling.
“Part of the reasons we split it up is so the elementary kids have more opportunity to physically visit the standard, mainstream elementary classes, and the secondary students have more opportunity for electives, and so on, available at the secondary school.”
With these changes in place, Wilson said “it’s business as usual.”
Student enrolment is stable, or growing modestly, which he views as a positive for the district. Exact enrolment numbers won’t be available until after Sept. 30.
“That’s when our official numbers for the year and our funding comes in.”
As students head back to class on Sept. 3, Wilson has one more message for the community, especially drivers.
“All those children will be on the sidewalks in a couple of weeks and, please, watch out for them.”
By the Numbers:
According to Mission Public Schools, the approximate number of students who will be attending school in September are:
Mission Secondary – 1,338
Middle Schools – 1,441
Elementary Schools – 3,375
Fraserview Learning Centre – 93
Summit Learning Centre, K-9 – 46
Summit Learning Centre, 10-12 – 497
Riverside College – 73