Signal Hill students to move to Pem high
Grade 6s will do Grade 7 at secondary school in September
By Chris Woodall
Signal Hill Grade 6 students will attend classes in Pemberton Secondary School when they graduate to Grade 7.
Parents, students and the two schools are in favour of the move. The final decision was to be given Howe Sound school board approval at its Wednesday night meeting, Feb. 11.
"The No. 1 reason for it is the population growth in the area and the over-crowding of the school," says John Flack, principal at Signal Hill Elementary School.
Signal Hill was designed to house 275 students, but has a current population of 444. The school site also has seven portable classrooms.
"That's the greatest number of portables in the district for one school," Flack says. "That's even more than Howe Sound Secondary School and it's a much larger school."
Signal Hill's population for the new school year in September will be determined by the scope of Pemberton's community growth.
"I'm finding it hard to predict what our numbers will be in September," Flack says. "But I do know a number of town homes and other housing units will be available in September."
Just adding more "temporary" classrooms like so many Lego blocks is not the answer, Flack says.
"To bring more portables in is not in the best interests of the children," the principal says. "There would be increased pressures on washrooms and other facilities here when there is a new secondary school to go to."
As the numbers now stand, 58 Signal Hill students will leave anyway to go into Grade 8, but they will be accompanied by 56 Grade 6 students who will be stepping up to Grade 7.
Bring them on, says Pemberton Secondary School principal Ron Albertin.
"I have a facility here that's under utilized. I have space for them: not just classroom space, but in computer labs and other facilities," Albertin says.
"It's not to say anything against Signal Hill, but we have more to offer," the high school principal says.
Parents, staff from the two schools and a delegation from Whistler's schools met last week to go over what the move means for young students entering a generational environment of much older students.
"A Whistler Grade 7 teacher and a school administrator relayed the Whistler model and answered questions," Flack says.
Even the students were involved. Signal Hill teachers, parents and the principal talked with the Grade 6 students to explore things they were unsure of, ending with a ballot.
"The vote was fairly evenly split between students who were unsure and those who voted 'yes'; with a few saying 'no'," Flack explains.
"But if we did that with the Grade 7s (who will go to the high school regardless), we'd have the same result," Flack says of leaving a familiar environment to go to a new school.
Planning ahead will make for a smooth transition.
"This is not something new (Grade 7s in a high school), but we have a successful model down the road at Whistler," Albertin says.
"The ideal is to have a middle school for Grades 6-8, but we don't have the population for that," Flack says.
Instead, it's important that the community as a whole has a plan for the move, Flack says.
"If it's done right, it'll work beautifully," Flack says.