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Growing programs to enhance Blackfalds schools

Both of Blackfalds schools, the Iron Ridge Junior and Elementary campuses, continue to grow and prosper

Both of Blackfalds schools, the Iron Ridge Junior and Elementary campuses, continue to grow and prosper as new programs are continually added and nurtured within the school’s halls.

Programs are also fostering new connections between the schools that haven’t existed in past years. “One of our biggest connections this year was the U21C (21st Century Learning) program,” said Iron Ridge Elementary Campus assistant principal Maureen Schlemko.

The Elementary Campus has been a part of the U21C project for two years after becoming involved during the pilot launch. Now, going on its second year, the school was mandated to mentor another school just joining, so the school chose the Junior Campus. “It was kind of a no brainer for us,” said Schlemko.

As with many schools across the province, both campuses are growing their Action on Inclusion practices.

Elementary principal Don Wielinga says the school has no pullout classes and all behavioral students are fully integrated into classrooms with their peers. During the school’s presentation to the Wolf Creek School Board trustees, they were told those who didn’t regularly work at the school and interact with the students couldn’t pick out those with behavioral issues.

“I think it’s wonderful people can’t pick out your behavior kids,” said trustee Donna Peterson.

A three-year goal of the Junior Campus is to further meld Inclusion and U21C skills and programs. Under the school’s mandate, virtues of Inclusion cover: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.

While working together, the schools also focus on individual factors of their separate school communities.

The Elementary Campuses student population continues to grow; sitting at 366 five years ago and now at 473.

There are six ESC classes of approximately 19 students, five Grade 1 classes of approximately 20 students, five Grace 2 classes of approximately 21 students, four Grade 3 classes of approximately 23 students and three Grade 4 classes of approximately 27 students.

The campus is also working on raising student Provincial Achievement Test (PAT) scores. Students are receiving more one-on-one guided reading instruction with a teacher while other students are raised to a level of individual reading.

Last year, in the reading category, more students received scores in the 40 and 80 percents than the previous year, while other percent areas were lower.

The school is also not yet happy with math PAT results. However, Wielinga says PATs are just one aspect of student learning success and don’t show the full accurate picture.

The Junior Campus population is also on the rise and the school has to use the library as a regular classroom. In 2012 the school held 272 students and by 2013 the number had risen to 355.

In the last two years the school’s Grade 6 PAT scores have significantly declined. “Our Grade 9 results are quite good, so what are those Grade 9 teachers doing that we could implement in Grade 6? Junior Campus principal Alda Lovell rhetorically asked the trustees.

The strategy the school is employing collaboration of student learning between the teachers of that grade, meaning students who’ve grasped a topic will work together with one teacher while those needing extra support will work with another. “And that was a process,” said Lovell. “There was a time the Grade 9 results were nothing to cheer about either.”

The school is also working on fostering closer relationship between students of each grade by holding more fieldtrips at the beginning of the school year to bring that fun and unity to school. Lovell says this has led to a decrease of parental concerns and office referrals of students.