In Education: Opportunities for learning, growth

Helping to alleviate concerns over the decision regarding high school placement.

In Education  Grant Frend

In Education Grant Frend

Grade 7 – the end of one journey, and the beginning of another.

The conclusion of these eight years are a milestone for families. However, while celebrating the finish of Grade 7, many families become anxious over the decision regarding high school placement.

I hope to provide you with some context to help alleviate the concern your family may be feeling.

As you start to attend the Grade 7 information evenings, please keep a few things in mind.

First, when registering for Grade 8, students will rank their top three choices.

Priority for placement by the district education office will go first to in-catchment students, then to siblings of currently enrolled out-of-catchment schools, and then to out-of-catchment students. Each registration is time-stamped, so what time you register, if you are selecting a school that isn’t your catchment school, matters.

Enrollment is managed to ensure that all of our schools can continue to offer a depth and breadth of courses to our students and also to manage space and classroom availability issues.

Students are not placed in a particular school because of an interest in a certain academy or program.

Second, we have six amazing secondary schools in our district.

I’ve had the pleasure of working at three of them and I loved my time at each.

All of our schools offer a multitude of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities. All have teachers, administrators, education assistants, clerical staff, and custodians who are dedicated to doing excellent work.

Third, if you are unhappy with where your student is placed, you can apply to transfer.

Principals meet monthly between April and June, then again in August and September to examine transfer possibilities. We do have to consider a number of factors when considering transfers: class size; space and impact on staffing and programs.

If a transfer isn’t successful for Grade 8, the transfer form can be included in requests for the following September.

However, in my 12 years as an administrator, almost every Grade 8 student I have asked has said ‘no thanks’ when I ask the family if they would like to pursue an unprocessed Grade 8 transfer request for the following year.

This is because, by the end of September, students have become connected to the school and they do not want to leave.

Typically there are some questions or concerns that principals hear about from Grade 7 families.

Some thoughts on each:

• All my child’s friends are going to School X.

The anxiety around being at the same school as current friends is totally understandable. The prospect of attending a different school, either by choice or by placement, can be scary.

However, in my experience, almost all students make new friends quickly once high school starts. In fact, survey Grade 8 students after a month of school and most will say they made new friends in the first week.

Many have changed friend groups altogether.

Ask a Grade 12 this same question, and he or she is likely to tell you his or her friend group has changed a couple of times during high school.

• I have to go to School X because of a certain program or teacher.

Our schools provide students with a variety of options and opportunities.

All of these are dependent on staff in our buildings. But staff change regularly, for various reasons.

Students wanting a particular academy not offered at their home school can cross-enroll into the program.

The day-to-day structure of our high schools is fairly uniform, with the exception being the model at Thomas Haney.

• I’ve heard School X has more students with drug or behavior challenges.

All of our schools work hard to create a safe and supportive environment.

The reality is, there are students in all schools, public and private, who face challenges.

These are not just school issues, they are community issues.

It is a myth that one school has more or less of this than another school.

Some further advice:

• Get fired up about all three schools you enter on your registration form.

If you focus on the positives, you will lessen the likelihood of disappointment if your student isn’t placed at his or her first choice.

As parents, it’s important we model and coach resiliency for our children.

• Parents, if your conversations focus on how important it is to get into School X, this will become and exercise in anxiety for both you and your child.

• Enjoy the journey. So much of your child’s experience will be defined by the decisions he or she makes once in high school.

Join a team. Sign up for a club. Try out for the play. Register for leadership.

Public schools in our province offer our students unparalleled opportunities for learning and growth.


Grant Frend is principal at Thomas Haney secondary.