While enrollment has been dropping at most high schools across the district for much of the past decade, one Maple Ridge school appears to be bucking the trend.
For the second year in a row, Thomas Haney secondary has seen a substantial increase in the number of incoming Grade 8s.
“At a time when there is declining enrollment in the district, it’s interesting to say the least,” said principal Sean Nosek.
In 2010, the school saw 165 incoming Grade 8s. That number jumped to 210 last year, and this year there are more than 240 incoming Grade 8s, and counting.
Nosek believes Thomas Haney’s innovative independent learning model, which was pioneered more than 20 years ago, is finally starting to catch on with parents and students.
The Thomas Haney model offers fewer structured classes and more free time, allowing students to learn at their own pace, and have more of a say in what they are learning.
“Parents get that the world is a different place and they are worried about the skills their kids need in a changing 21st century landscape,” said Nosek.
The school was one of the first in the district to integrate technology into the classroom, allowing students to use laptops, tablet computers, and handheld devices to complete their schoolwork.
The approach seems to be working, and parents are taking notice, Nosek notes.
“Our exam scores and grad rates are very good, and we’ve heard our kids transition very well into post-secondary,” he said.
Recent changes to the school’s self-directed model, adding more structure to the younger grades, have also been well-received.
“The transition to independent learning happens more gradually,” Nosek said.
Superintendent Jan Unwin said the school’s approach to individualized learning is something the provincial government is trying to promote through its much-touted B.C. Education Plan.
“Thomas Haney has been doing that all along,” said Unwin, who was formerly the principal at Thomas Haney secondary.
However, the recent influx of students at the school is not without issue.
If the trend continues, the school could soon be faced with an overcrowding problem.
“We don’t want to get in a situation where we need portables,” said Nosek. “So we’re going to have to be cautious about how we manage enrollment.”
Currently, the school’s enrollment is more than 1,000 students in Grades 8 to 12.
“Twelve hundred is about as high as we would want to be,” he said.