As schools in the Bulkley Valley ring in a new school year, students can expect a few new programs—and new chances to earn scholarships.
Full-day kindergarten programs will run district-wide this year. Every school that offers kindergarten held at least one full-day class last year, but this year marks the first time that full-day is standard across the district.
And if kindergarten enrolment is any sign, most parents like the new program, said Chris van der Mark, the district superintendent of schools.
At the senior level, van der Mark said the district is running a pilot program where senior students at Houston Secondary can take a psychology class at Northwest Community College (NWCC). The students will take the class by video-conference, a technology that he hopes the district can use more in future.
“It opens a lot of doors,” he said.
It’s not the first time the district has partnered with the college. A group of students finished a 28-week, professional-level cooking course that was offered through the school district and NWCC this July.
The college is a great partner, said van der Mark, and partnering allows both the college and school district to run some programs that might be too costly to run otherwise. That cooking program was funded by the B.C. Industry Training Authority.
Grade 12 students looking ahead to university may have a better shot at netting a provincial scholarship this year. Until last spring, the province used an optional Grade 12 exam to select students for its $1,000 and $2,500 scholarships.
But that set up narrowed the field, said van der Mark.
“Fewer and fewer kids were taking the optional exams,” he said, including many students who might have received a scholarship.
Final enrolment numbers will change over the coming weeks, but so far the district has about 2300 students—60 fewer than last spring. The district expected the decrease, said van der Mark, which is spread out so that it does not affect any programs.
Class sizes in the district continue to fall well under provincial averages. So far, kindergarten classes are a little over 18, primary are over 19, and Grade 4 to 7 classes are just over 21 students.
Class sizes for secondary students will take a few more weeks to come in, but van der Mark said he expects they will continue to be below average as well.