Grade 1 teacher Kim Tassie gets her classroom ready for the first day of school at Okanagan Landing Elementary. Wednesday is the first day of classes in the Vernon School District and it’s a half day with full days starting Thursday.

Grade 1 teacher Kim Tassie gets her classroom ready for the first day of school at Okanagan Landing Elementary. Wednesday is the first day of classes in the Vernon School District and it’s a half day with full days starting Thursday.

Enrolment critical as classes resume

Another year of classes resume in Vernon, Coldstream, Lumby and Cherryville Wednesday

Vernon School District officials are watching the numbers.

Another year of classes resume in Vernon, Coldstream, Lumby and Cherryville Wednesday, and the big question is how many students will walk through the doors.

“Elementary (enrolment) is building and secondary is down a bit,” said Joe Rogers, superintendent.

A stable enrolment of 8,200 students, including 200 international students, is expected, but Rogers admits that final figures won’t be determined for a month.

Economic turmoil in Alberta could be a factor.

“You never know if you’re going to get more families move back to the Okanagan,” said Rogers.

Total enrolment is critical because the school district’s funding from the provincial government is based on how many students are in desks.

While there is room in some schools, others are at capacity.

“Seaton is full, Vernon Secondary School is full,” said Rogers.

While students and teachers were off during July and August, schools were busy places, with about $1.4 million spent on capital upgrades and maintenance.

“At Harwood (elementary), they redid a room for the Restart program,” said Rogers.

A shift towards a new provincial curriculum is also moving ahead.

The amended curriculum model will connect reading, writing and arithmetic to collaboration, critical thinking and communications skills.

“The emphasis is on core competencies employers are looking for,” said Rogers.

The curriculum also includes an emphasis on environmental sciences, aboriginal perspectives, the history and ongoing legacy of the residential school system and the historical experiences of East and South Asian immigrants.

Starting this fall, the government begins the three-year process of  transitioning to the new curriculum, starting with kindergarten to Grade 9.

Teachers in those grades will have the option to use the new curriculum this school year, before it is fully implemented in all schools in the fall of 2016.

District administration and trustees will also be doing their homework as they prepare the 2016/17 budget and hope to avoid significant cuts.

A major decision will be made on the future of busing.

“Will we charge, what will we do?” said Rogers, adding that public consultation will be part of determining what happens with busing.

But while some complex issues are on the agenda, Rogers insists the start of a new school year is a time to focus on students and their potential.

“There is tremendous energy at this time of the year. The kids are happy to see their friends and find out who their teacher is,” he said.