By Sarah Makowsky

McBride Centennial Elementary is looking into Grade 2,3,4 and 4,5,6 classes in the upcoming school year, due to declining enrolment.

Parents are worried about how combining three age groups will affect their children socially and educationally.

“We understand that the school’s hands are tied a little bit because of numbers,” said Jennifer Quam, who spoke on behalf of the PAC and other concerned parents.
Combining three grades will save $90,000 since the school will lose one teacher, but Quam fears children may become lost.

School District 57 trustee chair Lyn Hall offers a different perspective.

The split provides “opportunities educationally and socially” for students since the school is smaller and many children already know each other, he said. The family grouping also offers the opportunity for students to work at a higher grade level.

He mentioned that Bear Lake Elementary had a successful three-grade split class before it closed.
The Grade 2,3,4 class is more of a concern because it mixes primary and intermediate students. There are 18 students in this class, which is less than an average class in the school district, so kids will have more hands-on learning and one-on-one time with the teacher, said Hall.

Superintendent Brian Pepper agrees that the situation isn’t ideal, but “a grouping of three grades is still very educationally-sound.”

“I have great faith in the staff there that they will be able to work quite effectively with a three-grade split,” he said.

“I think moving forward you’re going to see across the country more multi-age, family kinds of groupings.”
Nothing is set in stone, as things could change in September. Every school comes up with a projection on how they think their school will look in the fall. This is done in collaboration with the principal, staff and PAC.
So far, the school expects 111 students in September. Only three Grade 3 students are registered for the upcoming school year.

“The school will build on projection of enrolment for September of this year. Then in September actual children come into the school and if that organization has to be altered, then that’s when it’s done,” said Hall.

People worried about the three-grade splits should relay their concerns to the school, not the board, said Pepper, as they outline options and provide background on the way the school will be organized.
Unless more children attend McBride Centennial Elementary, the three-grade split classes will most likely stick around, regardless of protest.

“It’s just not an ideal situation,” said Quam.