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REPORTING · 1st May 2015
Walter McFarlane
School District 82 held a meeting concerning the future of alternate high school programs on Tuesday, April 28th. The cafeteria at Kitimat City High was filled with parents, students and interested community members. They were all informed this is the first time the school district has reviewed the alternate high school programs in many years.

“We’re asking you to share your thoughts and your opinions to help our board of education learn about how we’re delivering alternate programs in our School District,” said Superintendent Katherine McIntosh. “The Board of education has hired a consultant, Frank Dunham, to come and work with all of our students, staff, parents and Community members, partner groups, principals, senior staff and, of course, the board of education.”

The school board is doing this study to answer three questions: What are they doing in the alternate programs which is meeting the needs of the students, are there challenges and finally, how should those challenges be addressed.

McIntosh expressed there was some anxiety in Kitimat, and told those who were gathered this was not to be a discussion concerning the closure of KCH or shutting down the program. They were reminded there was a new board and a new superintendent who have designed a process to help the board learn about the alternate programs.

The floor was given to the people and they made first item clear, the greatest advantage which KCH offers is that it is its own separate facility.

The school allows students, who would not be able to succeed in the traditional high school program to be able to achieve a high school certificate, which is needed for college, university and many jobs. Dunham was told the program serves the students well and the contract system which the students work under teaches the students accountability and responsibility.

Dunham reflected on a conversation he had earlier with the students on the topic of the contracts. He expressed the contract system recognises that the students will eventually screw up, like everyone else. However, there are opportunities for redemption.

One of the challenges which the program faces is it is underfunded, and teachers must work with what they have. There were several examples given, such as school lunches being simple, a need for full time counseling services and potentially, other teachers.

There was a discussion on how students cannot get into KCH because it is full and there is currently a wait list, estimated to be around 15 students, at home, waiting to get into the school. It was pointed out one more teacher could allow all of those students to enter the school.

Dunham was told there are students who want to go to KCH but cannot because their councillor does not think it suits their needs. Some students do not know how to apply for the program.

One person expressed the people have to tell the school board how important this program is when they do their budget. The school board needs to understand how important this program is.

On the topic of funding, one student of KCH argued Mount Elizabeth is a school which has TV’s in all the halls, special water fountains which can fill a water bottle. They have expensive equipment and KCH has old textbooks and is struggling to feed its students a proper lunch.

The lunch from that Tuesday, a Peanut Butter and Jam sandwich, was brought up several times during the presentation. It was pointed out, at one time, KCH had a teacher who could teach the students to make real meals.

Another issue is, while the dogwood can be earned, it is possible for a student to earn just a completion certificate. It was also recognized there is no access to certain programs the high school has. The students want more flexibility to access courses students at the high school are able to take. While students can take courses at the high school, some students are unaware of this. It was suggested to explore partnerships with some of the post-secondary programs.

It was suggested there needs to be a program for early intervention for elementary school students who could be at risk. Working with students earlier in their life could increase the number of high school students who are successful academically.

One mother explained how she tried to get her son into Kitimat City High to ensure his success when he was in Grade 7. He was not admitted until he was in grade 9, and by this time, he was not only getting frustrated with school, but the teachers at the high school did not have the time to deal with him and he spent a lot of time in the principal’s office. She suggested having something in between for younger students.

However, it was pointed out by one of the students that a high school is no place for elementary school students, as the middle school at Mount Elizabeth is serving to introduce the middle school students to drugs, alcohol and sex much sooner in their lives. She agreed with having a separate program for the students rather than putting them in KCH.

The major priority which the community presented for the school board consider, is to resolve the issue of potentially moving the school, which was brought up a year ago. Both students and staff need the certainty to know the school is going to be there.

One of the major conversations which came out of the discussion concerned the measurement of success for the program. The people were adamant the program is successful, citing how it changed the lives for their children.

If you have any feedback on the alternative school programs in Kitimat, contact Frank Dunham at dfdunham,,,telus.net. We were informed he would be taking submissions until May 3rd.