Starting in September, students entering Grade 7 in Chase will be heading to Chase Secondary School rather than Haldane Elementary.
The decision to move students was finalized by trustees on Monday, April 23 at the public School District 73 board meeting in Kamloops. The board decided to proceed with the proposal in Chase and Barriere but not in Clearwater, where many people were opposed. For Clearwater, trustees voted to remain with the status quo, which means Grade 7s will stay in the elementary school.
A news release from the school district states the decisions followed an extensive period of consultation with parents, staff and students in all the communities that included public meetings and presentations, as well as online, email and paper-based feedback.
“This move will give many young people a unique opportunity to explore their passions and interests by giving the grade 7s access to specialized equipment and facilities and creating additional space at the elementary schools to address their needs for more flexible space,” said District Superintendent Alison Sidow. “We’re excited to see this proposal move forward in these two communities.”
At Chase Secondary School, principal Dave McDonald says staff are excited. He thinks it will be a great opportunity for the Grade 7s.
“We have facilities underutilized that provide specialty classes such as wood shop, metal shop and the foods room. So those kids coming over here are going to get the opportunity to take courses they wouldn’t have over at the elementary school.”
The high school also offers in-house counselling, whereas the elementary school is served by the district counsellor who comes usually about once a week, he said.
A less important factor is that the elementary school is “bursting at the seams,” while the secondary school has extra room, McDonald added, noting that Haldane has about 300 students and the high school 200, meaning they’ll both have about 250 come September.
One downside for the elementary school is that two teachers may no longer be employed there. Administration at Haldane could not be reached before press deadline. McDonald said two or three teachers will likely be hired at the high school, but the hiring process required means the positions would be open to anyone, not just elementary teachers who are displaced.
Asked about a concern expressed regarded mixing Grade 7s with older students, he said he surveyed the Grade 8s at Chase Secondary. One question was, how much interaction is there with the older grades?
“The answer was none. They said, ‘the Grade 12s don’t talk to us’… The kids kind of scoffed at that.”
He said he understands the concern of parents, but thinks there will be benefits because the older students can tutor, and other opportunities will arise for peer mentorship and leadership.
“We like to look at it from the positive perspective.”
McDonald mentions he was working in Logan Lake 29 years ago when Grade 7s were brought into that high school.
“It was a very positive experience for them… We expect this to be a positive experience. It’s a cool school with excellent teaching staff; there will be boundless opportunities for these kids.”