More than 50 parents and grade eight students turned out for last night’s information session on high school reforms in the Fort High cafeteria.
The most debated topic was the new “community involvement” policy, in which students must complete 40 hours of volunteer work in order to graduate from high school.
“The current government believes that it will teach students how to be good citizens by learning civic duty and civic responsibility,” FFHS principal Terry Ellwood said in response to the question of what motivated the provincial government to initiate this policy.
Vice-principal Mary Hickling also responded to parents’ complaints the new program suffered from “too much government control.”
“The Ministry of Training and Education will provide parents with a list of acceptable activities, and parents will be asked to submit a record of their child’s volunteer hours once those are completed,” she noted, adding that there was a wide range of activities that could count towards those hours.
But Ellwood did admit even the school was not sure how the policy would work in practice.
“We have our own problems, mainly with safety and supervision—these hours are considered school activity,” he noted.
“Although 99 percent of the students will go out and act safely, we have great anxiety the one percent who go out and trim Grandma’s hedge with a chainsaw,” added Ellwood, half-jokingly.
Another heated issue was the grade 10 provincial literacy test, which students must pass in order to graduate.
“Why implement this now? Shouldn’t my child be literate before grade 10?” was the main question.
“It’s all about accountability,” explained Ellwood. “The educational accountability office is providing benchmarks to prove to the public that graduates are literate.”
A presentation also outlined such aspects as subject disciplines; streaming in grades nine and 10 versus grades 11 and 12; diploma requirements; the expansion of co-op policies and procedures; teacher advisory system; the annual education plan; and the full disclosure policy.
Although some parents left right after the presentation, others stayed to question Ellwood, Hickling, and guidance counsellor Mary Jane Gushulak.
Still, it was evident certain concerns were out of the local high school’s hands and strictly the domain of the provincial government.
“I think the whole thing’s going to be nightmare for the government,” one parent remarked.