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School district roundup: student activities, calendars, budget and policies

As students, staff and employees of School District 54, (SD54) took a two-week breather from school for spring break, the school board trustees reflected on a busy semester at their March 21 meeting.
The SD54 building in Smithers. (File photo)

As students, staff and employees of School District 54, (SD54) took a two-week breather from school for spring break, the school board trustees reflected on a busy semester at their March 21 meeting.

Superintendent Mike McDiarmid reported most schools in the district had the opportunity to spend time on Hudson Bay Mountain for ski or snowboard instruction during the months of February and March. Houston and Smithers Secondary outdoor education students have been approved for several field trips over the course of the next few months to participate in everything from outdoor survival campouts to canoe skills to ice rescue skills, a total of 44 students will participate in these activities.

Basketball, ski and snowboard teams have all wrapped up for the year with solid and impressive results.

Smithers Secondary Musical Theatre enjoyed sold-out shows every night for their performances of Mama Mia! including an additional performance added due to the popularity of the show.

A Skills Canada Competition was held in Terrace with six students from the district attending. Everett Himech from Houston Secondary placed first and Dawson Unruh from Smithers Secondary placed third in the welding category. Himech will represent the district at the provincial competition in Abbotsford in April.

The Skills Canada Competition is the only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country.

Over 35 Concert Band, Jazz Band and Choir students in grades 10-12 from Smithers Secondary will be travelling to Cuba from April 10-19 to take part in the “Educational Performance - Tour de Cuba.

Telkwa Elementary School recently sent a 31-member choir to participate in a vocal competition in Burns Lake and had a first-place showing.

To finish the re-cap, McDiarmid reported a group of approximately 35 students from Twain Sullivan Elementary school will travel to Prince Rupert, from May 24-26 to visit and learn about numerous curriculums from Northwest Indigenous cultures, to financial literacy, physical education and other local governments.

In school board business, McDiarmid received notification from the Ministry of Education that the district has 18 scholarships available for this year. Application packages have been sent to the high schools.

Student-led conferences are being held April 19 and 20 and parents are advised to contact schools to arrange interview times.

The 2023-2024 school district calendar was adopted at the March 21 meeting, but the 2024-2025 calendar still requires input on professional development days before its final draft can be published.

Dave Margerm, district secretary/treasurer, gave an update on budget and staffing for the 2023-2024 year and said the district staff is still working through both for next year.

The district is projecting a slight increase in students, which means budgets and staffing will remain “more or less” the same as the current school year.

The 2023 trustee stipends were discussed at length.

Trustee stipends from districts around the province were compared with SD54, and consistently, trustees from the local district were in the bottom end of the scale from other trustees concerning stipends.

The board was given several options to make changes to the current policy, which ties stipend increases to the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

These included the option not to take any increase for the next year.

The trustees opted not to change the current policy, which kicks in an automatic 6.9 per cent increase effective July 1.

READ MORE: School district drafts a second round of school calendars, based on public input

The 2023-2024 Capital Plan was updated and approved for funding of $1,789,298 which includes Telkwa School’s building “envelope” upgrades of $900,000 and school enhancement plan (SEP)-HVAC upgrades of 520,000.

The district will also purchase two busses to replace older model busses within the district fleet for $369,298.

The Silverthorn school (SEP)-HVAC was delayed by a year due to lack of contractors, so the funds were set aside for the project from the 2022-2023 budget.

A contractor has now been secured and the funds are in place from the ministry and district to complete this project.

The policy committee made a recommendation to the board of draft revisions on the Weapons at School policy to allow more current thinking and consequences for weapons incidents, and with the board’s consent will now be sent to stakeholders for a consultation period prior to final approval.

Before concluding the meeting, the board was advised the District sent a letter to the Town of Smithers, as requested from the operations committee, regarding the town’s Parks Bylaw review.

The letter asked that the two town parks within proximity of schools (Dogwood and Heritage parks), be exempt from potential bylaw changes that would allow overnight camping.

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