With the closing of one of Vanderhoof's elementary schools

School reconfiguration preparation

Vanderhoof is working hard to get NVSS ready for the influx of young grade seven students.

The school district of Vanderhoof is working hard to get NVSS ready for the influx of young grade seven students to come there now that Prairiedale Elementary will be closed and the schools rearranged.

There are changes to be made physically to the building and ideas to change teaching habits to fit a younger group in a high school environment.

Some of these ideas came from psychologist and speaker Nancy Doda who was in Vanderhoof last week to hold a parent information session as well as a workshop for teachers on the professional development day.

“The reason that we asked Nancy Doda to come is primarily the reconfiguration process which will bring grade sevens to the high school,” said Manu Madhok, Director of Instruction for School District 91. “She’s a developmental psychologist who specializes in the learning needs of middle year students. We found her while we were doing research and saw this video of Nancy talking to a group of principals.”

“She’s an academic and she works in that academic circle,” said Madhok. “But she’s also a teacher first and that resonate with teachers. She told them stories and you could tell that when she’s speaking, she speaks like a teacher.”

“We knew that we needed to do something a little bit differently than just saying to grade sevens ‘welcome to the high school, good luck, here’s your eight block schedule, stay out of the corners and watch for the kids with moustaches'” said Madhok. “We needed to do a bit of research into what had worked in other jurisdictions and didn’t work.”

Parents of grade seven students wanted to know about the safety of their child who might only be 12 or 13 years old and they want to know there’s going to be a safe spot for their kids. Approximately 90 grade seven students will be coming to NVSS.

“So we wanted to create a footprint in the building for them, that wasn’t walled off and made into a school within a school, but a zone designated for grade sevens,” Madhok said. “So there’s a spot on the second floor that has been designated for the grade sevens.”

This spot will be made to look a little different from the rest of the school, since it is being designed with younger children in mind.

“We’re trying to incorporate some of the hallway space as classroom space,” said Eugene Marks, Director of Instruction for SD91. “We’ve got some areas where we are going to change where the walls are, increase the size of the learning space. We’re going to try and connect individual classrooms so it isn’t just teachers teaching in isolation but teachers working with 60 kids or 50 kids instead of one teacher with 25 students.”

Parents have already been shown, at meetings, preliminary drawings of what the space could look like.

Marks said that students at a grade seven level are closer to grade eights than they are to grade sixes in their learning ability. The new students won’t be ready to see a handful of instructors each day like their older counterparts but they will be ready to see maybe two teachers each day. And that’s what the new learning space is going to be capable of providing.

“When more teachers are putting their heads together, it’s better for kids,” said Madhok. “We really are trying to prevent the sort of spaces where a single teacher will walk in their class, close their door and then try and teach a group of 25 students in isolation.”

Madhok said that the school district can’t really place a timeline on this project but they know it will be functional by the time the kids arrive there but whether it will be totally finished is something they can’t predict yet.

Click here for more information on what will happen to existing elementary schools when Prairedale closes.

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