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Year-round schooling discontinued in Innisfail

Year-round students at Chinook Centre School and Innisfail Middle School (IMS) will be starting a traditional calendar school year in September after Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) board members voted to discontinue the year-round calendar in
Students from Chinook Centre School listen to kindergarten teacher Catherine Wagner read a story during their Friday afternoon group activities on March 11.
Students from Chinook Centre School listen to kindergarten teacher Catherine Wagner read a story during their Friday afternoon group activities on March 11.

Year-round students at Chinook Centre School and Innisfail Middle School (IMS) will be starting a traditional calendar school year in September after Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) board members voted to discontinue the year-round calendar in Innisfail Schools last week.

During the Wednesday, March 9 board of education meeting the board was presented with the results of a parent survey regarding year-round schooling after enrollment numbers at IMS became a concern for school administration.

Twenty-three students were enrolled in the year-round program at IMS, which accounted for only three per cent of the school population, said IMS principal Jay Steeves.

Staff at IMS recommended to the board to end the program for a number of reasons, said Steeves.

Dwindling class sizes, the affect it has on complementary classes for the rest of the school, and staffing levels during the conflicting break schedule were all noted.

“Some of the year-round teachers also teach complementary classes for the other students and when they were on break with the year-round students they couldn’t teach their other classes,” said Steeves.

All of the parents of the IMS year-round students were contacted for feedback and all of them had one of two very different opinions.

“Many people saw it coming with the dropping numbers but others were disappointed because it was the path they had chosen for their children,” said Steeves.

“There were two schools of thought but both groups were very understanding.”

The enrollment numbers at IMS have been steadily declining for a number of years but it is now at a point where there is a question of the feasibility of running the program, said Shawn Russell, associate superintendent for CESD.

With the recommendation from IMS on the table parents at Chinook Centre School were polled in February to see how the change would affect enrollment numbers at the year-round elementary school.

The poll found that there were a number of parents who would not have been able to operate on two simultaneous calendar years, said Russell.

All but one of the 103 families at Chinook Centre School were called for their feedback.

Staff at Chinook Centre School said that although the year-round program has worked for their school they said they don’t believe it will affect the quality of their programs or the enrollment at the school.

“We do still value the benefits of the year-round schooling but we understand the situation right now,” said Lorrie Sparks, a teacher and member of the administration team at Chinook Centre School.

Chinook Centre School opened in 1995 and has offered the year-round option for parents since then but didn’t became an entirely year-round school until 2008.

The school employs an open classroom concept that incorporates multi-age programming, which is one of the distinguishing factors besides the year-round calendar that makes Chinook Centre different from a traditional school.

“There will be no changes to our philosophy or the structure of the school, we will just have different holidays and a different start date,” said Leslie Ramsell, another teacher and member of the administration staff.

“We will still have all the benefits of a small school and will continue our great academic programs and look forward to welcoming students in September instead of August.”

Staff at Chinook Centre School were made aware of the possible changes to the calendar just after new years when the schools started planning for the 2011/12 school year.

Katia Brosseau, president of the parent council at Chinook Centre School, said that although they will be sad to see the year-round program go they understand why the changes need to be made.

“Educationally it has been proven time and time again that the benefits of year-round are far superior to traditional, children get more rest, retain more over shorter breaks, and don’t burn out as fast,” said Brosseau.

“But at the lower levels it could cause tremendous child care issues for parents that have children on separate school schedules… the majority of the parents said they would not want to run two schedules.”

As a parent, Brosseau said she would have run the two schedules but is fortunate enough to be a stay at home mom and wouldn’t have to deal with child care. However Brosseau said she would still be looking forward to sending her two children to Chinook Centre.

“We are losing the year-round program but are still happy to have our school.”