With the combining or co-location of McBride’s elementary and high schools currently off the table, McBride’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC) is shifting its concern elsewhere.
At the PAC AGM on Tuesday, Nov. 22, the public came together to rattle off questions to School District 57 (SD57) trustees, as well as principal of McBride Secondary, Derrick Shaw. Karen Dubé, PAC Chair, facilitated the meeting.
The biggest concern, aside from potential for co-location in the future, was the classes available to students in Grades 10 to 12.
Caitlyn Dubé, a Grade 11 student at McBride Secondary and the daughter of Karen, is a perfect example of why the system needs to change, she says.
She wants to attend a program at the University of Thompson Rivers and needs Biology 12 to get into the program, she says. Biology 12 is offered to Caitlyn this year, she says, but it’s in the same block as her Socials 11 class.
Because of how she planned her classes, Caitlyn says she couldn’t have taken Socials 11 last year, adding there were other students who took the class last year and are now taking Biology 12 this year, but their schedules were entirely different.
The problem, according to Caitlyn, isn’t a student’s class selection, but rather not having enough teachers available.
“The teachers who are here are amazing, and they’re really good at what they do… There just aren’t enough of them to teach all the courses we want and need,” says Caitlyn.
“I don’t care if I can’t get Computer Science, I just want the courses I need to move on to university,” she says.
As PAC Chair, Caitlyn’s mother agrees, and says she feels solutions to the issue may even be with the current staff.
“We really need to listen to the teachers and the administration in the school,” says Dubé.
“Lets see what their ideas and concepts are, and support them. They want to provide for the students, and do the best by them,” she says.
In addition to adding staff, another potential solution, according to Dubé, would be to change the provincial educational funding formula, as she says rural kids are being put at a disadvantage, currently.
Schools are generally funded by the number of students in seats, which means if you have a low student population you’re limited in terms of teachers and courses. Rural schools do, however, get supplemental income for being rural. Still, it’s not enough to provide teachers for all classes students want to take, Dubé says.
“The district needs to work more collaboratively with the schools and the community to make it work,” says Dubé, also saying she felt online classes are far inferior to in-class instruction.
More and more, according to SD57, geography is no longer a barrier, and technology is a 21st Century skill — some students like it, while others don’t — which is why online courses are viewed as a flexible option.
Though Dubé used Duchess Park School in Prince George as an example of a school with an extensively long list of electives, she says her point wasn’t to say rural schools need those extensive options, too.
The point, she says, was to say some students in areas like McBride have to choose between Physics or Gym, which is hard on them.
“It’s an either/or for a lot of our courses,” she says. “Those are hard choices for kids to make… They can’t have both.”
In response, SD57 has said it is committed to having a streamlined graduation path for every student, according to Superintendent, Marilyn Marquis-Forster.
Historically, according to Marquis-Forster, the number of students failing to graduate out of McBride Secondary hasn’t been above the norm.
“McBride Secondary has actually done a great job in providing the core classes for graduation,” Marquis- Forster says.
“There may be somebody now who is worried, and I understand that, as the numbers have continued to decline,” she says, noting under the current educational funding formula, it makes sense there would be fewer classes available than in the past.
“We hear the concerns, and we want to be very respectful of them,” says Marquis-Forster. “We will do our very, very best to hear (Caitlyn’s) concerns and address them.”
But at this point, Caitlyn Dubé says her future depends on getting into Biology 12 next year, something she still can’t confirm.
“It might happen, I’m not sure.”