iCount is more than just Moricetown’s alternate high school, it’s a place where students, who don’t feel they fit in at a regular public high school, are excited to learn.
The iCount program was sparked after Diane Mattson, of the Kyah Wiget Education Society (KWES), learned several Moricetown students were either not attending school or achieving well below their potential in school because of poor attendance.
“There were some kids that were completely lost in the system at Smithers secondary school and the Bulkley Valley Learning Centre,” Pricilla Michell, Moricetown Band post-secondary councillor, said.
During negotiations between KWES and School District 54 it was decided Moricetown would start its own alternate high school.
“It was initially supposed to be a partnership between the Bulkley Valley Learning Centre, but we’re close to becoming independent.”
The name of the school, which began its first year this September, speaks to the focus of organizers and staff, wherein iCount students are able to recognize they are relevant members of society.
According to Michell, a large portion of the sense of belonging is the students’ access to learning about the Wet’suwet’en traditional culture, essentially where they came from.
“We have elders coming in to talk with the students and they are responding in a positive way,” Pricilla said.
The initial stage was mainly a meet-and-greet.
“The first month-and-a-half was essentially team building between the students and staff,” Tom Butz said.
Butz, a teacher of 35 years, came out of retirement along with his wife Lorna to teach at iCount.
“Now, over the past month, we’re at the stage where kids can come in and work at their own level on academics,” Butz said.
There are currently 24 students registered in iCount.
Each student has an individual learning portfolio.
If any classes are missed each student can reference their folder, but so far iCount has nearly perfect attendance by students who had attendance issues at former schools.
“We’re meeting each student’s individual needs,” Priscilla said.
Mack Jackson is the most ambitious of any student at iCount.
He’s currently attempting to finish Grades 11 and 12 to graduate by July.
“It’s kinda hard,” Jackson said.
iCount students are raising eyebrows for positive reasons throughout the community, which wasn’t always the case.
“Some of these kids were the ones responsible for vandalizing this building in the past,” Monica Michell, assistant band manager, said about the new home for iCount in the upper floor of the Moricetown multiplex.
“Now they’re here before we start work at 8:30 a.m. nearly every morning.”
Monday, Nov. 19, after a feast that ended late Sunday night, several iCount students helped to clear and clean the gymnasium at the multiplex.
“They’re doing these things without being asked,” Monica said.
Sarah Mitchell, mother of iCount students Garrett and Branson, can’t believe the change in her sons.
“They’re both excited about school and coming every day,” Mitchell said.
“I don’t know what Mr. Butz or Mrs. Butz are doing, but my kids are stoked for school.”
Mitchell, who works at the Moricetown daycare, recalls having to spend a lot of time tracking down her sons who were skipping school and she’s is relieved to no longer have to wonder where they are on a daily basis.
Now her sons are getting immersed in every facet of education and attacking problems head-on.
Last Thursday Mr. Butz was leading the class through an introduction of the Pythagorean theorem, where the square roots of two sides of a right-angled triangle equal the square root of the side opposite the right angle.
Although it’s difficult to grasp at first, the students help each other regularly.
“You’re a good teacher,” Floyd Hyzims said to fellow classmate Victoria Naziel, who helped him figure the Pythagorean solution to a problem.
“I can’t wait to see them at the end of the school year,” Priscilla said.
“We can’t get them to leave at the end of the day.”