An environmental education program envisioned for secondary school students is running into some challenges before it even begins, superintendent of schools Patrick Bocking reported at the Jan. 14 school board meeting.
"The issue is the impact of such a program on other courses in the school and we're finding that we won't have enough students to run the program as originally envisioned," Bocking said. "We're really struggling to see how we're going to be able to do it."
Bocking said more research would be done to see if there is some way to make the course work. He said the environmental education committee is also "looking at removing barriers to experiential learning and enhancing communication about what is available on the Coast for outdoor opportunities for all students."
School District No. 46 (SD46) is working with an international education agent in China to bring students to the Coast for the 2014/15 school year.
"The plan would see 20 to 25 students from China attend our secondary schools this coming September," Bocking wrote in his report to the board. "While plans are still in the early stages, efforts to ensure homestays, processes for selection and discussion regarding necessary support are underway."
Bocking presented the most recent high school completion rates that showed an average of 61 per cent of Aboriginal learners finishing high school within six years while an average of 83 per cent of non-Aboriginal learners graduated within the same period.
The numbers are up slightly from the last report.
"With the way that we are working right now we're confident as a leadership group, all the principals and vice principals, that's going to continue," Bocking said. "We have such a focus on ensuring that we're meeting the needs of every student, both long term with making sure that every student reads at grade level and we're making sure that through differentiated instructions, different opportunities, really actively chasing down anything we can to help students succeed, that number will continue to increase."
While the rate of Aboriginal grads was an issue for some, trustee Lori Dixon noted it is much better than it used to be.
"I was here when it was six per cent and it's true, it's because of the work of people including Aboriginal principal Mahlman and her staff and then the wider School District staff behind this that we are at 61 per cent and I'm hoping that some day it will be even," Dixon said.
Student trustee Maya Treuheit gave her first report at the Jan. 14 board meeting.
"Quite honestly I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I accepted this position, but what I could never have predicted was the overwhelming warm reception I received," Treuheit wrote in her report. "Advocating the importance of student voice has always been something I was passionate about, and this has given me an incredible outlet to do exactly that."
She said students are coming to her more with their ideas for change and that she learned a lot at a recent student trustee conference in Toronto.
Parents who want SD46 to consider taking wifi out of schools had their say during a question period at the Jan. 14 board meeting.
Parents asked why wifi was needed in all schools and stressed their health concerns including possible links to cancer and learning disabilities from wifi exposure.
Board chair Betty Baxter said that SD46 follows Health Canada guidelines and that "we will comply with regulations set by Coastal Health and Health Canada," which allow for wifi's use.
Gibsons parent Barry Janyk questioned those guidelines, noting Health Canada's own website states "at present the evidence of a possible link between RF (radio frequency) energy exposure and cancer risk is far from conclusive and more research is needed to clarify this possible link."
"If you can't say with certainty that RF emanations from wifi are of no consequence then how can you concede to its use and not acknowledge the uncertainty involved?" Janyk asked.
"We acknowledge there's a lot of research out there," Baxter said.
"You're asking us to make decisions that are not our jurisdiction and that's the answer to your question. We're going to continue to comply with what the regulatory bodies have told us until such time as we have compelling evidence that we should do otherwise," Baxter said.
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