September opened another education chapter for thousands of students in southeast Saskatchewan. The Mercury reached to South East Cornerstone Public School Division (SECPSD) director of education Lynn Little to talk about the division and the plans for the year.
This year the enrolment appeared to be stable in comparison to the SECPSD’s projections.
“Lampman, Macoun, Midale, Pleasantdale and Weldon out in Bienfait, as well as Westview all within two or three students off what was projected, either up or down… Spruce Ridge is up nine from what they projected to be at, a little bit down from where they ended the school year at, as they have larger groups going out than they have coming in,” said Little.
The Estevan Comprehensive School (ECS) at the time of the interview was up 45 students from projection, however with the large volume of students, Little said it was too early to finalize the numbers.
“It appears that it’s up, but we need to confirm it. By the end of this week we’ll have a better indication ... as to what the numbers will be totalling at,” said Little.
Hillcrest School is up 11 students from what they have projected.
“Across the whole system overall numbers appear to be up in comparison to our projection, but again it's very early, so we can’t guarantee that it will remain that way,” said Little.
This is the final year with the current education sector strategic plan that was developed in 2013. The division will continue to follow on their goals on that plan. First one is supporting children to meet development milestones prior to their formal entry to school.
“Last year we landed a program called Welcome to K. We’ve made some alterations for this program for this year, so it’s a little bit different. Schools will be inviting kindergarten class and their caregivers of 2020-2021, next year class already, will be coming in this fall to participate in Welcome to South East Cornerstone event. So we encourage those to attend those sessions when they are scheduled,” said Little.
The division also will continue to strive to meet their goal of 80 per cent of students achieving at grade level in reading, writing and math.
“This year in Grade 2 to 5 we are going to be implementing Core 5 across the whole school division. We piloted that program last year and saw it be very beneficial in supporting reading instruction. So due to the success of that pilot, the board of education supported purchasing the program for all schools across the system,” said Little.
They also purchased Power Up for Grade 6 for all schools, which is also a progam that supports students that might be reluctant or struggling readers.
The third goal the division has is an improvement in graduation rates and working to ensure that all students graduate within the same window of years.
“We still have work to do to increase the graduation rate of First Nations students. We have seen tremendous growth, but we are not yet on par, so we are continuing to work on that.”
Research shows that missing 10 per cent of the school year, which is about two days a month or 18 days over the year, negatively affects the outcomes. Poor attendance influences whether children can read proficiently by the end of Grade 3.
“We know that by Sixth Grade, for example, chronic absenteeism above 10 per cent becomes a leading indicator that the student will drop off the high school,” said Little, noting that when improving attendance students also improve academic record and chances for graduating.
In the meantime, the information was being gathered for the new strategic plan for the upcoming years. The results of different community engagement programs were brought together and are being studied to determine the key components and target areas for the next provincial education plan.
“We are anticipating some directions by late fall, as far as what those core pieces might be and then what those next steps will be in developing that plan,” said Little.
SECPSD is also in the process of adjusting their transportation routes to ensure that buses are not arriving at schools prior to 15 minutes before the start of the instructional day.
This is being done to ensure there is supervision on-site when they arrive. So the division will be fine-tuning those routes the first couple of weeks just to get the timing right, and there will be a little bit of leeway as they work their way through that.
Some schools also have updates in their curriculum this year including the pilot French Immersion course and 10, 20 and 30 music classes at the ECS, Robotics course for Grades 7-9 at Yellow Grass, provincial financial literacy course at the 2030 level in a few schools in the area and other pilot courses.
“Once the curriculum is piloted, it will be approved from the ministry and available for all schools in subsequent years,” said Little. “Once those are approved, each school chooses and offers heir own course selection in terms of electives that have been approved at the provincial level.”
Little wished all the students, staff and their families “an awesome school year when we strive for success achievement for every student in every school” and encouraged parents to contact the division if they have any issues, concerns or questions.