Following an emergency meeting Monday in which Nelson parents, teachers and students raised the alarm about scheduling “gridlock” at L.V. Rogers, superintendent Jeff Jones has deployed two full-time teachers’ worth of funding to the high school to help “alleviate the pressures on our students and our staff.”
“This will give us space and time to get clarification and accurate data, to get our actual enrolment numbers figured out,” Jones told the Star. “There appears to be more pressure than normal this year and we thought we needed to attend to that for our students and our staff.”
One teacher’s worth of funding remains unused from the original L.V. Rogers allocation, so the school administration now has the equivalent of three full-time teachers available to them. That will help them address the two main problems: Grade 9s and 10s with missing electives, and classes that are mandatory for graduation plagued with lengthy waitlists.
The decision to send additional resources was made at the school board meeting in Kaslo on Tuesday evening, where it was decided Prince Charles Secondary School in Creston would receive two teachers’ worth of additional funding as well.
“I brought forward the motion supporting senior admin in their decision to bring in these new resources, and that got passed,” trustee Curtis Bendig told the Star. “We’re hoping that alleviates the immediate pressure so we can drill down and work on longer-term solutions so this doesn’t become a recurring thing.”
Jones said one of the primary causes of the gridlock was MyEdBC, a provincially mandated scheduling system he believes will ultimately be “an incredible tool” but which is currently experiencing glitches and malfunctions.
“We signed on to be wave one of this transition, and this system was supposed to be implemented last year,” Jones explained. “With the [teachers’] strike I felt it was too much pressure to do that and return to work after such a long job action. We pulled out of wave one and were put in wave two, and for the life of me I can’t figure out why all these glitches weren’t fixed in wave one.”
He’s been informed the system will be fixed by the end of the week, and as to whether the situation will be repeated next semester: “I desperately hope not.”
L.V. Rogers principal Tim Huttemann told the Star the situation has improved slightly since the Monday meeting, and staff are scrambling to deal with a back-log of transfer requests.
“This is certainly going to help,” he said, of the additional funding. “Right now we’re working on the large classes, and with the kids who have been on the waiting list. We’re also working with Grade 9s who don’t have an elective.”
He also explained the 11 currently teacher-less courses all take place in second semester, something that wasn’t clear to parents and the community. That means there’s still plenty of time to seek them out and hire them before classes start in January. Hiring for those positions won’t happen until later in the fall, as part of their normal process.
Jones said though some classes won’t be offered in a traditional classroom setting, the district is invested in exploring other educational opportunities including distance and online education, mentorships and innovative programs such as Atlas, an outdoor education program at L.V. Rogers that has proved immensely popular.
“We don’t have infinite resources to provide multiple course opportunities for students, and I’m not sure that’s the best use of our funding,” he said.
Both Huttemann and Jones said it’s “impossible” to justify running classes with low enrolment, and it makes more sense to encourage students to join the popular classes instead.
“If you look at our art classes, we have tons of kids. But there are some speciality courses, such as Writing 12, where there just aren’t the numbers. If we see a class with an enrolment of eight, we don’t even look at it twice. It’s the 18s that hurt, and the question is ‘what will they take instead?’” said Huttemann.
There’s no firm cut-off, but L.V. Rogers tries not to run classes with fewer than 25 students.
Jones compared L.V. Rogers to J.V. Humphries, Mount Sentinel, and Crawford Bay schools, all of which are significantly smaller, and praised the innovative ways those schools have embraced evolving education models and learning to work within their means.
“They have online learning centres, the kids receive support, and it’s just a part of the reality of education these days. We know in today’s world millennials are not learning in the linear way we saw in the industrial era. They don’t enter at Grade 9 and have a straight trajectory — they go on exchanges, they want to travel, they take independent learning courses.”
He said there’s also the option of blending some classes.
“We have been talking for years about cross-curricular, cross-grade opportunities for students, and I think this new curriculum is going to challenge some of the more traditional timetables.”
Some parents have expressed concern about the rising number of students choosing to take online courses — opining that kids are being forced into these virtual classes because of lack of options — but the school board and senior administration don’t see it that way.
“The face of education is changing and needs to change to meet the needs of the world changing around us,” Bendig said.
There are still significant kinks with the MyEdBC system — “It just shut down again, today,” said Huttemann — but everyone remains hopeful things will settle down soon.
“There are still a lot of question marks,” said Bendig. “But this is all part of a longer solution we’re working on. We’re going to have a better picture of enrolment looks like in the next couple of days.”