Back on the bus John Townley

Back on the bus John Townley

Back to school for more than 30,000 students in Greater Victoria

The Greater Victoria School District is expecting the student population to remain the same at 19,500 students, although final enrolment numbers won’t be known until the end of September. In the Saanich School District, where enrolment has been on the decline, estimates are lower than last year’s count of 9,713 students. Saanich is down slightly in all levels, but not as much as anticipated in elementary, Elder said.

Ready or not, school’s back in on Sept. 6.

The best way to prepare children for the big day is to keep it simple. Know when your school opens and feed your child a good breakfast, said Deborah Courville, associate superintendent of the Greater Victoria School District.

“The other thing that really helps is to have a designated spot or time for students to study after school. Sticking with that routine really helps the student be consistent and know what to expect.”

Courville suggests parents smooth the transition back into school by setting regular bedtimes and regular study times to establish a routine.

For Keven Elder, superintendent of the Saanich School District, the best way to ensure a positive return is for parents to make connections with teachers.

“And being positive and excited about the return to school, because it is a positive time to be back with classmates and friends,” Elder said. “Most of what will create a positive transition will be around the way parents and families embrace the return to school, so we really encourage a really positive atmosphere around the home.”

The Greater Victoria School District is expecting the student population to remain the same at 19,500 students, although final enrolment numbers won’t be known until the end of September. In the Saanich School District, where enrolment has been on the decline, estimates are lower than last year’s count of 9,713 students. Saanich is down slightly in all levels, but not as much as anticipated in elementary, Elder said.

From an administrative standpoint, Elder is looking forward to the district’s move toward more personalized learning during the upcoming school year.

“Although the curriculum has stayed the same, the ways in which they can go about accessing that learning is getting more student-centred all of the time,” he said.

“If they want to learn through more activity, or through more reading, or through more technology, or through more interaction with people – including experts they can access through the technology – then we allow them to make those choices.”

Helping kids find the best way for them to learn is key, says Education Minister George Abbott.

“It involves from the early years, early identification and remediation of learning challenges, whether they’re physical or cognitive,” Abbott said. “We hope to keep more students engaged and hopefully engaged through to at least getting their Dogwood from high school.”

The provincial graduation rate is just under 80 per cent, he said, though that number drops to 50 per cent for aboriginal students.

Among the major issues facing the education system this fall, Abbott says the most immediate is the ongoing B.C. Teachers’ Federation contract bargaining.

Since the first-ever negotiated contract between 40,000 teachers and the B.C. Public School Employers Association expired at the end of June, talks have been sparse and the federation has threatened to withhold administrative duties should no agreement be reached.

“We don’t know exactly what kind of impact that will have on students and parents and the school year, but we certainly are going to follow it very carefully and I’m going to attempt as far as I can, to maintain what has been a constructive and respectful and professional relationship with the teacher’s federation,” Abbott said.

September also marks the second half of the province-wide transition to full-day kindergarten, which is now offered to all five-year-old students. In 2009, the Ministry of Education announced a $365-million investment in the program over three years.

“It’s a pretty exciting time, going back to school, because it’s always new, whether it’s a new grade or a new school and for the kindergarten students, it’s school all together,” Courville said.

Back to school road safety

As of 8 a.m., Sept. 6, school zones are back in effect.

Every year, the Insurance Corporation of B.C. records an average of 16,655 crashes, 5350 injuries and 36 deaths involving children.

To lower the risk, the B.C. Automobile Association Road Safety Foundation suggests drivers, including parents, avoid driving in school zones.

The foundation reports that incidents stem from drivers making U-turns, stopping illegally, backing into crosswalks, rolling through stop signs, ignoring school safety patrollers, letting children out from the driver’s side into oncoming traffic and speeding.

As of last September, changes to the Motor Vehicle Act now trigger a seven-day vehicle impoundment if drivers are caught doing 40 km or more over the posted speed limit.

SD61 by the numbers

• Full time educators (administrators and teachers): 563 (female);  339 (male)

• Part time educators (administrators and teachers): 322 (female); 79 (male)

• Average full time base salary: $70,686 (female); $73,771 (male)

• Average years experience: 12.8

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