One such change will be the implementation of full-day Kindergarten in elementary schools in Dawson Creek. Last year, full-day kindergarten was implemented in schools outside of the city.
Rob Dennis, assistant superintendent for the school district, said in some schools that has meant renovating space that was not being used for classrooms, but in most cases, there was enough room to accommodate a full-day Kindergarten. He added if the population of Dawson Creek were to continue to grow and more space was needed, they could put the vacant O’Brien building back into commission.
Central Middle School and South Peace Secondary School are now officially the two campuses of Dawson Creek Secondary School after a legal process for amalgamation was completed in earlier this year. Dennis said besides the name change, this year will see the combination of the two campuses on an operational and programming side as well. He said that will include having a shared telephone system between the two buildings, coordinated bus travel, and a complimentary schedule to ensure the most number of programs can be offered to the most number of students.
“In terms of the operation of the school, there will be a huge shift towards streamlining the two operations and putting into place services that won’t be duplicated,” he said.
Dennis said one of the goals of joining the two schools would be to encourage middle school students who excel in certain subjects and want to accelerate their learning beyond the Grade 9 level to do so. However, he said the district intends not to have Grade 8 students attending classes at the high school campus.
He said the continuation of “21st Century Learning,” an approach to teaching that puts an emphasis on project and inquiry-based learning, will be key focus at the new amalgamated school.
“The teachers did a marvelous job of bringing it into their classrooms and exciting the kids about what was possible in their learning, and we think that’s going to be a big piece of the work going on at Dawson Creek Secondary this year.”
In June, the district signed a new Aboriginal Education Enhancement Agreement with its community partners. The agreement sets out a five-year-plan that lays out goals and actions for improving academic achievement and graduation rates among Aboriginal students.
Dennis said, broadly speaking, that strategy will include replacing a model where support staff would work alongside Aboriginal students who were struggling with a model that will see teaching staff at the district level observing and working with Aboriginal students throughout their time in the school system.
“It’s too target those kids with their skills, and be able to bring a different environment to them in the schools – and to bring some success and support in the classroom of a completely different nature from what they would be getting under our old structure,” he said. “This is going to be both personal, and the climate and culture within the classroom and how that is affecting them.”
“We are trying it out and seeing whether it is going to make a difference in the performance outcomes of our Aboriginal students – and the graduation outcomes – because they are not acceptable to us,” he added.
Lastly, the district has an exciting new partnership with the Kiwanis Club of Dawson Creek to transform the Kiwanis Enterprise Centre building next to the high school into the Kiwanis Early Learning Hub. The facility is intended to offer preschool children a year-round, indoor environment to play and learn, while providing parents with resources and training opportunities for students learning to become early childhood educators.
“That is one we are definitely excited about and one that is building excitement within the community,” said Dennis. “It’s going to be like a miniature Disneyland in terms of kids being excited and fascinated by learning through play.”
He said a grand opening for the new early learning hub is expected in the near future.