Houston’s school administrators are shocked to find enrolment very similar to last year.
“Schools are running very similar to last year,” said Scott Jackson, Principal of Houston Secondary School and Twain Sullivan Elementary.
Braced for a significant drop in population due to the closure of Houston Forest Products last May, Jackson said “numbers are better than we feared.”
With 220 students, enrolment is down seven from last September but pretty similar to last year, he said.
At Twain Sullivan, enrolment is down as well, with 173 this year and 190 last September.
Jackson says Twain scrambled to add a new class Monday because “numbers came in higher than expected.”
Enrolment at Silverthorne Elementary School was actually up three, with 163 students total, said Principal Bev Forster.
“It’s interesting with the concerns about the mill.”
The big change at Houston Secondary School is the structure for middle school grades.
Grades eight and nine students are operating by a middle school model, with core teachers delivering science, math, English and social studies.
“It gives less division between subject areas,” said Principal Jackson.
Four students from HSS are in the millwright ACE-IT program run by Northwest Community College at the HSS shop.
Vice Principal Julie Krall says the millwright students have their own entrance and are set up on a different schedule, operating separately from the rest of the school.
Two new staff are teaching at HSS: Mr. Richmond is the new Athletic Director and PE and drama teacher, and Mrs. Erickson came from Burnaby to be the new learning support teacher.
Administration is changing slightly, with Principal Jackson now full-time principal, split between HSS and Twain. Vice Principals Krall (HSS) and Delainey (Twain) cover the other half of administration.
“So far, it’s been very, very busy,” Jackson said.
“But I’m loving the little kids and the energy over there. It’s been really fun.”
Twain Sullivan Elementary is settling into a new configuration after adding a new class Monday to accommodate the higher-then-expected enrolment.
They have a handful of new staff this year, who Jackson says are not technically new, as they’ve taught at Twain before but have been gone for various lengths of time.
Mrs. Bond is teaching kindergarden and grade one, Mr. Richardson is teaching grade three and Mrs. Euverman grades five and six.
Twain is doing a pilot project with grades six and seven students, who are taking a rotation of high school classes including foods, shop, art and drama.
“Those kids love these activities and we share a parking lot so why not give them a chance to come over here and experience some of the amenities the high school has to offer?”
Jackson says they’re trying it out and might include Silverthorne in the project in future years.
Other then that, not a lot is changing at Twain.
“Mrs. Delainey and I are learning about Twain every day as we go. It’s a good little school, so we’re not going to be putting anything new or any kind of big changes right now,” Principal Jackson said.
Silverthorne Elementary School has a new Principal, Bev Forster, who grew up in Houston and graduated and taught at Silverthorne in the past.
Four new teachers are also joining staff. Linda Kusleika is teaching grade two, Samantha Elliot teaches grades four and five, Holger Rode teaches grades five and six, and Cheryl Becker is doing Learner Support.
Forster says it’s exciting to “join such a great team.”
“I love the culture and commitment all our teachers make at Silverthorne. The new additions just add to that culture and are passionate about teaching. I am looking forward to working with such a dynamic group of educators,” she said.
Programs, sports and the breakfast program are continuing like last year, and learning self-regulation will also continue. Self-regulation helps students to recognize when they’re not in a good learning state and what to do to get back to a place where they are ready to learn.
“It’s huge,” Forster said. “It really changes the way we look at kids’ behaviour, instead of looking at them as being the difficult child, we’re looking at them more to look for their needs and how we can meet their needs so they can stay focused.
“It’s a big shift in the way that we thought about it before, letting them wiggle, understanding that some might need quiet at different times, and then giving them the strategies to figure that out themselves.”
The late start due to the strike will not affect the school calendar, and Forster says teachers will simply adjust and hunker down a bit faster to help kids learn what they need to learn in less time.
The strike was “challenging for everybody,” Forster said. “The teachers wanted to be in school, and we wanted the kids in.
“It’s so nice to be back… kids are excited to be back too, it was a long break for them.”