Students, teachers work amid change at schools

With the new school year underway, changes within Ponoka schools are ringing through the halls.

With the new school year underway, changes within Ponoka schools are ringing through the halls.

Ponoka Secondary Campus

Ponoka Secondary Campus will also have the sounds of construction ringing through their halls until the spring.

The school gained grades 7 and 8 students this year, and with a population of 660 students — they were expecting 602 — and construction behind schedule, space is tight.

Junior high students have their own area set up in the school’s interim to provide temporary relief until their permanent space is complete.

“One of the biggest issues for our junior high students is they don’t have lockers yet,” said Rawlinson. Bins have been purchased for the students until lockers are available.

The school’s gymnasium also won’t be available until November at the earliest but Rawlinson believes December is a more accurate estimate. Until then the gym at the now empty Diamond Willow Middle School is being used.

Esthetics (a form of cosmetology) one new class the school is running, and several others, such as art, drama and physical education have had their enrolment scaled back because of spacing issues. “They’re still running, they’re just a little smaller than they used to be,” said Rawlinson.

Mechanics students are taking an online course for the time being because the mechanics room construction lab, which isn’t available to students due to construction.

Eight new staff members joined the school, several coming from Diamond Willow Middle School. Another high school math teacher is needed because of the growth in the school.

Rawlinson says each day presents a new challenge but starting the school year has been a positive process. “In honesty though, it’s gone pretty well. Our kids are amazing. They’ve adapted very, very well.”

Senior high students, especially Grade 12 students, have stepped up and taken on leadership roles to help the younger students.

During the first week of school a Grade 12 student protected a younger one and helped correct the situation. “It was phenomenal . . . They’ve stepped up in a big way, ” said Rawlinson.

Ponoka Elementary School

Ponoka Elementary School held onto the students who would have graduated to Grade 6 and moved to the separate middle school.

Although the school’s population increased by about 80 students because of it principal Lois Spate says nothing’s really changed in the running of the school. “It hasn’t been that different, it’s just the (previous) Grade 5s stayed.”

With the retained students the school is out of space and every classroom is being used.

This year the school also boasts nine new staff; one is a transfer from a Lacombe school, two are new to Wolf Creek and the rest come from Diamond Willow Middle School.

With the new teachers come new classes. “There’ll be some new options offered. All the Grade 6 teachers will be offering an option,” said Spate.

As it’s done in previous years the Elementary School is continuing its Artist in Residency program with the dance group Sound Creations. The program is supported through the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and the Ponoka Elementary School council.

“It’s just an opportunity for the students to be exposed to the fine arts,” explained Spate.

The school was a part of a pilot project that enabled them to bring a cart of Chromebooks in for the Grade 4 students. This year Grade 5 also receives a cart.

Ponoka Outreach School

Ponoka Outreach School is also increasing their presence on the world of technology. “We’re spearheading some cutting edge software,” said principal Scott Lewis.

Students and teachers will be using Google apps and YouTube videos to support different learning styles.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” said Lewis. “Using some of the Internet technologies we’re able to teach kids who learn better by hearing or seeing it done.”

In turn the students can use the same technology to present their knowledge and understanding through means other than traditional written assignments.

A number of complimentary classes are being offered that weren’t in the past, including art, active living, cosmetology, drama and outdoor education.

As Wolf Creek Public Schools revamps several schools in Ponoka, the Outreach is also in line for a new location, and, if all procedures stay on schedule by September next year the Outreach School will be in the Red Brick School.

“According to theory this is our last year in this school,” said Lewis.

The school is on the same track it’s had for the last five years in student numbers, says Lewis and also welcomes new junior high math and science teacher Christina McMeekin.

Ponoka Outreach School is also continuing several practices favoured in the past, such as breakfast and lunch programs and hold parent teacher interviews in Hobbema. “That’s such a good thing for us. It’s such a great thing for our families.

Lewis is also holding the first Parent Advisory Council meeting at the school on Sept. 26 at 6 p.m. and invites those able to attend to do so.

St. Augustine School

Over the summer St. Augustine School gained 29 new SmartBoards, for every teaching space except the gymnasium. “The teachers are loving it,” said principal Curt Baron.

The SmartBoards are being used to further envelope advancing teaching methods around the student body; which grew by approximately 50 students.

The official number won’t be set until the end of September but Baron is pleased with the growth the number’s projecting. “To me, 50 seems like a fairly large jump.”

The staff also gained a high school language teacher.

St. Augustine is implementing a Response to Intervention program this year, in a grades 1 to 6 division and a junior to senior high school division.

The program looks at what students of each level need to learn and the best way for them to be taught the knowledge. Baron says for younger students that may be presented as smaller working groups and for high school graded, more “flex time”.

Flex time is unscheduled time where students can seek out teachers for extra guidance in struggling areas or, if they aren’t struggling, use the time to complete assignments.