Silverthorn Elementary school's exterior. (SD 54 photo/Houston Today)

Houston school reconfiguration gets a green light

School community to see the change starting September 2021

School District 54 (SD 54) is finally going ahead with Houston schools’ reconfiguration plans this year.

Last year in November, the school district began discussions around a possible reconfiguration of schools. What this meant was that the school district wanted to make Silverthorne Elementary School into a focused primary school and to shift Twain Sullivan’s focus completely to intermediate levels.

The school district then held consultations with the stakeholders and reviewed all the feedback earlier this year. In February, the school district finally took the decision to finalize the school reconfiguration.

“The District is committed to providing the best educational experience for all of the students in Houston and it is without reservation that we have recommended the grade reconfiguration at the schools,” said Mike McDiarmid, the SD 54 superintendent.

“The Houston community will be largely unaffected as the biggest change will be where elementary classrooms are located in the community and getting the students to the location. (so a slight change in bussing) At the same time, we do understand that change in schools is sometimes difficult for people and that there are some potential consequences for individual families,” he added.

READ MORE: SD 54 seeking feedback on Houston school reconfiguration plan

Bev Forster, the principal for the Silverthorne Elementary School expressed her excitement over these changes and indicated that this will be a great opportunity to build an Early Learning Centre to service children aged 0 to 8 in Houston.

“I have been a part of the Houston community since 1978, and we are finally looking at a change that has been discussed for years. The advantages are many but from our perspective it allows us to focus on both vision and finances across a smaller range of grades,” she said.

Forster also said that this reconfiguration would make a huge financial difference as more funds will be available for primary resources and activities that will be focused in one place.

Earlier last year, Silverthorne was approved for a $1.5 million funding from the Ministry of Children and Family Development, to include a variety of new childcare spaces. The elementary school has already renovated its library and the work on the childcare spaces is underway.

“Building a space that focuses on younger children will allow us to take part in professional learning that is more specific to early learning, and we will be able to build programming across grades,” said Forster, adding that a common vision, language, programming, and assessing for K-3 would be helpful in the way the school handles instruction and would also help meet the needs of children as they enter their intermediate years.

Forster also believes that working with the daycare and preschool will give the school the advantage of creating a better transition between preschool age children and kindergarten. Preschool children will get an opportunity to be in and around the building and get to know teachers and staff and vice versa. Children K-3 will have the advantage of working with children younger and experience leadership opportunities at an earlier age that otherwise may not present themselves.

“Between Twain Sullivan and Silverthorne, we have all the student and teaching resources for the new configuration. Teachers will be able to plan and teach together at similar grade levels. This has not been as available in the past, but the potential for both students and staff is exciting!” she said.

This reconfiguration would also mean that all the intermediate students from Grade 4 to 7 in Houston will benefit from the campus program that already exists between Houston Secondary and Twain Sullivan Elementary. The intermediate students at Silverthorne Elementary have been missing out on some of these educational and social opportunities which will no longer be the case with this reconfiguration.

ALSO READ: School District 54 mulls over Houston schools’ reconfiguration

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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Silverthorn Elementary school's principal Bev Forster. (SD 54 photo/Houston Today)

Silverthorn Elementary school's interior childcare spaces. (SD 54 photo/Houston Today)

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