A group of young students passionate about dance can now participate in it and have a personal life, thanks to a partnership between School District 69 and the Qualicum Beach School of Dance.
The self-directed learning program allows the half dozen Grade 8-9 students to attend dance school for three hours each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday while making up missed classroom time through online, distributed learning courses offered through the school district.
“Now I have time to do my schoolwork,” said Abby Selva, a grade 9 student. “I don’t need to stay up until 12 o’clock anymore. I get eight hours of sleep a day, and I get to see my dog and my brother and my dad.”
Previously, the dancers in the high-performance group at QBSD attended five days a week after their regular school day, leaving them precious little time for anything else.
“By April of this year we were finding we were worked off our feet,” said Shari Silva, Abby’s mother and founder of Qualicum Beach School of Dance. “Everybody was so busy. We were having dinners in the car. The kids were exhausted. They found it hard to organize their schedules.”
The realization that other parents in the school were sharing the same issues led to a discussion in which Shari Selva brought up the concept of a joint program that would allow the students to earn school credits while still engaging in dance, she said.
“I knew there was a hockey academy in Port Alberni for kids who wanted to do that,” Selva said. “I know they do it for golf and skiing. And there’s a school for figure skaters in Campbell River.”
So Selva and her fellow dance instructors approached the school district and got some good news and bad news, she said. The dance school program would not qualify for academy status, but it could enrol students through an extensive array of activity areas approved through the external credit provisions of the Ministry of Education’s Handbook of Procedures for graduation.
“It’s more of a partnership or an arrangement than an academy,” said Rollie Koop, SD69 superintendent. “What it’s doing, through flexible scheduling, is providing those kids an opportinity to get credit for their (dance) work and for them to still be taking academic courses through independent directed study.”
In essense, the dancers now attend dance three days per week during the school day — and earn school physical education credit — where they once attended five full days of school and danced all five nights by evening, Shari Selva said. The courses they need to replace the lost time to dance can be taken any time, including evenings and weekends.
“Since I’m in band I’m doing two online courses,” said Abby Selva. “It’s kind of difficult, but simple at the same time. I can do the (course) work any time I want. You do need to develop good time-management skills.”
“My parents don’t have to drive me as much anymore,”added Jacie Frampton, another Grade 9 student at KSS. “I’m actually getting finished with the work I get assigned at school — on time.”
To ensure the dance is run as both a physical and an academic program, Shari Selva said, one hour of each day is devoted to topics including dance history, anatomy and nutrition, apart from the actual dance time.
“For many of the kids, this is their passion,” Selva said. “They want to stay involved and continue in dance beyond school.
“For the kids that are that focused and dedicated, this program is attractive.”
Dance instructor Jennifer Walsh leads students from Kwalikum Secondary School in a class at Qualicum Beach School of Dance, available through a self-directed study program with School District 69. In image above, student Ellie Obodzinski gets an assist with her body position from Walsh. —Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB News