When the back to school shopping is done, students in School Districts 61 and 63 will head back to class for a new year. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)

Local school districts gear up for the new back to school season

Seismic upgrades, inclusion and student safety are priorities

It’s that time of year again. The binders are stocked with fresh paper, school supplies have all been labelled, new backpacks are ready for opening day and the schools are prepped to welcome students back for another year.

Both the Saanich School District (SD 63) and the Greater Victoria School District (SD 61) expect their student populations to grow.

SD63 Superintendent Dave Eberwein is happy to see enrolment go up in the region. Despite the growing student population, SD63 will not see any new portable classrooms this year as the district managed to accommodate all the new students, said Eberwein.

The summer was busy for the SD61 facilities department as work gets done while the buildings are empty, School Board Chair Jordan Watters explained.

Several projects completed over the summer include roofing work on several schools, gym floor and bleacher upgrades at Lansdowne Middle School, new windows at Mount Douglas High School, new theatre lighting at Esquimalt High School, home economics room upgrades at Lambrick Park Secondary School and seismic upgrades at Campus View Elementary.

Richmond Elementary School was also prepped over the summer as the Braefoot Elementary student body will be housed there while Braefoot undergoes seismic upgrades.

“We have very ambitious seismic upgrade plans as safety of the students is our priority,” said Watters.

Once Braefoot Elementary is ready for students to return, Richmond Elementary will be home to a sixth grade satellite campus for Lansdowne Middle.

All the upgrades aside from the roofing were done by school district staff, said Watters, so they were “hopping busy.”

SD 61 also welcomes back 3,600 staff members — about 2,100 of whom are teachers, she noted, and the school board is also set to renew it’s strategic plan at the end of August. The plan outlines the district’s goals for the next three to five years. One of the goals focuses on community engagement in regards to inclusionary education and helping kids with additional learning needs reach their full potential. A public forum will be held in the fall in hopes of getting public input on how SD 61 should orient itself to improve inclusion in schools.

Eberwein also noted that he’s hopeful the negotiations between the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association — representing the boards of education in the province — and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation will go well. The two sides are currently working with a mediator on a renewed Provincial Collective Agreement. There were five meeting in July and at least four are scheduled in the last two weeks of August.

Eberwein said there has been no talk of a strike, but a media blackout was requested by the mediator, so no negotiation updates are currently available.

Both Eberwein and Watters said their districts are looking forward to a productive school year.

“There’s positive energy in the air,” said Eberwein.

He wishes families a smooth transition into the new routine and wants to remind everyone to drive safe and obey the school zone speed limits.

“Watch out for our littlest learners,” said Watters.


@devonscarlett
devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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