Shuffling school grades offers advantages

District ponders changes to Twain Sullivan, Silverthorne

Changing the grade levels at Silverthorne and Twain Sullivan offers advantages but also concerns, indicates information set out by School District 54.

Being proposed is shifting Silverthorne to a K – 3 school and Silverthorne to a 4 – 7 one.

“Two schools can create a division or perception of division. A single elementary school structure of primary and intermediate schools would stop comparisons of schools and programs (“us vs. them” attitude). Instead the focus can be directed student services at one facility: resources, programs, facilities, staffing, etc.,” states the district in an appendix to its 2019-2020 facilities review which examines the state of the district’s buildings.

The district would avoid having to provide the same set of resources for two schools of K – 7, bringing efficiencies from reduced costs or access to programs.

“Larger grade groups allow much more uniformity in levelled programs or student intervention. Greater groupings for sports, clubs, food programs. Fewer staff required to support similar groupings,” the district adds.

“Theoretically, all grades in one school, would contain greater number of straight-grade classes. It also allows for multiple classes with same grades in one school, and thus would allow for better balancing of classes in both class size or class composition and support. Currently two small elementary schools can create an environment high and low classes and classes with high composition and low composition class scenarios.”

Having more than one class of a grade also offers greater teacher choices for a student and a parent.

The district also suggests there would be more efficient and economical teacher and support staffing by increased coordination and specialization of learner support services as well as the possibility of developing specialty teachers who could concentrate on specific programs.

Should Twain become a Grade 4 – 7 school, students would have increased access to cooking, trades, gym, computer and science labs facilities, and high school field use.

“The Twain site also allows for immediate access to outdoor trails and ball fields,” the district notes.

As for converting Silverthorne to a K – 3 school, centralizing pre-school programs there would ease the transition into Kindergarten.

And parent advisory councils could create their own efficiencies within individual primary or intermediate schools.

But shifting grades would also require shifting teachers and support staff, something the district says would need to be carefully addressed.

And there are worries an intermediate school may have a greater ratio of learner support.

The district also notes there may be parental resistance to change given their own history with a school and their satisfaction with what a school now offers.

Switching from two K – 7 schools may also mean less choice for parents and students however, the district notes, “a new school environment or no school choice may be a positive for student’s education.”

When in comes to operational costs, the district notes there would be increased transportation requirements.

And students at a Grade 4 – 7 Twain Sullivan school would have a greater distance to the downtown core, arena, swimming pool and library.

Parents and stakeholders will have their opportunity to speak to the proposed shift during public consultation sessions in the new year.

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