School year starts on a positive note in Parksville Qualicum Beach

More than 4,000 students head back to classes this week in Qualicum School District 69

The 4,000 students heading back to classes this week in District 69 will likely notice a different, more positive feel and focus in their schools, according to the lead voices for teachers and administrators.

There is no provincial labour dispute — pending, happening or just ending. The closure and reconfiguration of schools — with the pain, confusion and anger that caused — has had time to settle, time for grieving.

“This year really feels like a fresh slate,” said School District 69 Superintendent Rollie Koop. “I think everybody is looking for an opportunity to get back to the work of teaching an learning in ways that we are used to.”

The president of the local teachers association agreed.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a very positive start in our schools,” said Mount Arrowsmith Teachers’ Association’s Roberta Heinrichs. “I’m looking forward to seeing my colleagues beginning their year without trepidation, with excitement and with a good rest.”

The district won’t know exactly how many students it will have in K-12 classes this year until later this month, but Koop said he’s heard anecdotally “there’s a real influx in the number of folks from Alberta.”

The new school year in B.C. is the start of a three-year transition to a new curriculum that Education Minister Mike Bernier said last week will emphasize “hands-on” learning.

The new curriculum is being phased in this year for Kindergarten to Grade 9, with higher grades still in development. Bernier said this year it will be up to local school districts and teachers to begin implementing it before it becomes mandatory in the fall of 2016. Grade 10-12 curriculum is to be mandatory in 2017.

Local officials are speaking in positive terms about the new curriculum.

“Teachers will have more latitude to shape the direction they will go with the curriculum,” said Koop.

“It allows for more of an openness while still learning the skills, still learning the basics,” said Heinrichs. The MATA president did have some words of caution about the future of the new curriculum. “With any new curriculum there’s a need for new resources and new resources take funds,” said Heinrichs. “That’s a key piece we can’t forget — there’s no money attached to this.”

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