Students and teachers flooded the school yards and classrooms last week as the school years started up again.
Houston Secondary School
Houston Secondary School has 227 students this year, five less than last year, said Principal Scott Jackson.
Jackson says school startup was good but it’s been challenging with no access to the gym.
They’ve had to push back a few events because of gym renovations, which are scheduled to be complete Sept. 15, Jackson said.
HSS has a new Vice Principal Julie Krall and two new Education Assistants, Penny Chorney and Tatyana Morand.
Jackson says the school has new specialty programs for the afternoons, building upon last year’s system with academics in the morning and hands-on courses in the afternoons.
They’ve added courses including textiles, calculus, environmental ad lab science, and some specialty physical education courses like basketball, volleyball, fitness, weights and soccer.
“We’ve taken our PE and made it a little more specialized so that kids can choose activities they are particularly interested in for their PE credit,” said Jackson.
Jackson says they’ve also started a grade 8 Inquiry course, where students pursue an area of interest and at the same time learn the new core competency skills including communication, critical thinking, creative thinking and innovation, personal responsibility and social responsibility.
“Their assessment will be based on performance in those core competencies,” said Jackson, adding that the course will be explained to parents at Meet the Staff night.
HSS also added a junior music program and they have a cross country team this year coached by Vice Principal Julie Krall.
“It’s a culture shock to be so busy after a relaxing summer, but it’s good to be back and see all the staff and students,” said Jackson.
Twain Sullivan Elementary School
With 190 students, Twain Sullivan Elementary School has about the same enrolment as the 192 they had last year.
New Principal Kevin Bird says they have big plans and some exciting things that they are pursuing for the school this year, but it’s a surprise.
“It’s a little early to let the cat out of the bag, because surprise is a big tool that we use,” he said.
Bird says they are planning some new projects and are working on some cool things in math, which is a real focus in schools right now.
Asked about the start of the school year, Bird says there are a lot of new faces.
The kindergarden students start gradually, with a few short meetings the first week, then part-time the second week, and then full time after that, Bird said.
“It’s always interesting to see the little ones getting used to things and gearing into school,” he said.
“They come in in three different shades: there are the ones to whom this is just one more thing in life, there are the ones that are a little worried about it, and then there are the ones that think this is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to them!
“Kids come in and kids go out; there are smiling, happy faces and they’re all excited to get back with their friends and excited to run around at recess and lunch time and get involved in all the activities.”
Silverthorne Elementary School
With 167 students, Silverthorne Elementary School enrolment is up from the 155 students they had last year.
Principal Mark Fehr says they welcome several new staff this year including new Learners Assistant Leighan Bell, new Grade 4/5 Teacher Sondra Contumelius and new Grade 6/7 Teacher Susan Euverman.
As far as the school goes, the front entrance has been repaved and the bathrooms redone, Fehr said.
Asked if there is anything new or different happening, Fehr said not so far.
“But there will be. We have a few things cooking,” he said, adding that they have some classroom initiatives that will be explored, but they are still ironing out the details.
Fehr says they continue working on self regulation with the students, as it really seemed to make a difference.
“It helped a lot of students to recognize what they need in order to be ready to learn, which in turn helped their learning,” Fehr said.
Fehr says school start up was very smooth this year, and the only difference was that instead of posting classes before school started, classes were not solidified until a few days into school.
“[It was] because we had so many new students come in,” he said.
Houston Christian School
With 101 students, enrolment at the Houston Christian School is up one student from last year.
Interim Principal John Bron says things will be a bit different this year with his temporary, part-time position at the school.
Bron taught at HCS 1975 to 1979, and now lives in Surrey. He will be at HCS three days a week, with Vice Principal and Elementary Teacher Cindy Vellekoop running things when he is gone.
Besides the new principal, Bron says they also have a new Classroom Assistant Nelinda Vandenberg to help with the grade 3/4 this year.
Bron says this year HCS is focusing more on project-based learning and will engage in projects within the community.
One class is looking at the situation with Irrigation Lake and exploring how they can be involved in what is happening, Bron said.
He adds that he plans to take a class and explore ideas to improve the appearance of the CN station in Steelhead Park.
Bron says another new thing at HCS is a grade 11 and 12 “Introduction to Trades” course, where they will do hands-on projects in the community.
Sports are starting up and this year HCS has a co-ed volleyball team that will play in the senior boys league, Bron said.
Northwest Community College
With 31 students this year, the Houston Northwest Community College enrolment is down a little bit, said Regional Director Regina Saimoto.
A new program that the college offers this year is carpentry level one starting in February for adult and high school students, Saimoto said.
She adds that they are working on partnerships to bring in courses for heavy equipment operator and mineral processing operator this fall.
The forestry heavy equipment operator course would be a five week course this fall, and might be slightly longer if they can get add a practicum, said Saimoto.
The mineral processing operator course would be a 14 week program offered in the winter in collaboration with Huckleberry Mines Ltd., she said.
Both courses are in the works and interested people can leave contact information at the Houston campus, she said.
This year the college is also doing phase two of the Organizing Against Racism and Hate program funded through the provincial Embrace B.C. program, said Saimoto.
They incorporate parts of that into the social justice class and they run some community events around that theme, she said.
Saimoto says the college is open to interests and suggestions from the community regarding other programs.
“If the community is interested in having certain courses during the year or next summer, we’re always interested to hear from the community and work with them to see if we can make those things happen,” she said.
Saimoto says the school startup was good and she is excited about the year.
“I think we have very strong connections in Houston with the community and the industry… so I’m very excited to work with the community to make this college a vibrant part of Houston.
“I think it’s really important to us as a community college that we really try to solidly engage with the community and listen to what the community’s wants and needs are,” she said.