New junior secondary to cocoon Grade 7s

Grade 6 students and parents filled the bleachers in the Columneetza gymnasium Monday, June 3.

Tara Sprickerhoff

Tribune Staff Writer

Grade 6 students and parents filled the bleachers in the Columneetza gymnasium Monday, June 3, where the first-ever Grade 7 orientation was held.

As part of the evening, administrators, councillors and teachers helped explain what would happen with next year’s Grade 7 classrooms.

As part of the move to change the two Williams Lake high schools into the one school, two campus model, next September will be the first time that all Grade 7s will be attending secondary school together.

“It’s not business as usual for any of these people,” said Gregg Gaylord, principal of the new Lake City Secondary School, who led the presentation.

The students will be attending the Western (old Columneetza) campus alongside students in Grade 8 and Grade 9, while the senior grades will be at the Carson (old Williams Lake Secondary) campus.

The Western campus will be “closed,” wherein students will not be allowed to leave the facilities during the day.

The program will work similarly to elementary school classrooms.

Grade 7 students will stay in one main classroom, with primarily  one teacher for the majority of their subjects.

Specialty courses, such as music or languages, may be taught by a different teacher dependent on each teacher’s specialty.

Mike Grace and Grant Gustafson, the two vice-principals of the Western campus next year, separated students into classrooms, trying to create a balance with regards to academics, gender and personality.

“There’s lots of great things that can happen with the eight classrooms together,” said Grace. He suggested that teachers and students can collaborate on different projects because all the classrooms will be near each other.

All the Grade 7 classrooms will be located in Columneetza’s basement hallway.

“We wanted to pick a spot where we could keep [students] in a general area for kids and teachers to move back and forth,” Gaylord said.

Although some of the classrooms don’t have windows it was the only area in the building to keep all the Grade 7 students together, he said.

“You can’t put them in the shop wing or where the food rooms are and you don’t want to take up the science labs,” Gaylord said. “It was a logical spot.”

Unlike the older students, the Grade 7s will have a year long schedule, rather than having classes that change each semester. Teachers will have the freedom to arrange subjects within the block schedule.

The benefit of having the Grade 7s in the bigger high school is that they have access to better resources, said Sandy Davis, a counsellor at the Western campus next year.

“We’re looking to give students more opportunities,” Davis said.

Gaylord, formally the principal of Columneetza, has been working outside of the school helping to arrange next year’s school change.

There’s been a lot of conversations between administration at the school, as well as the district implementation committee and different stakeholders such as parents and teachers, he said.

“That has helped guide us,” Gaylord said. “It’s exciting, but even teachers are a little uneasy about the whole situation.

“It’s forcing people to be flexible and change and that’s not a bad thing.”

Theresa Rud, a parent whose daughter will be going into Grade 7 next year, was initially nervous about the change. Now, she said, she is feeling a lot better.

“I’m looking forward to the change and to see how it all unfolds,” Rud said.

Gaylord invited anyone who had questions or concerns regarding the change to come talk to him or any of the vice-principals or councillors personally within the upcoming months.

“We will take care of your children,” he assured parents.