The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Board of Education is making its annual let’s-be-friends plea on Foundation Skills Assessment testing.
This time, however, trustees are hoping the administrators jumping into the fray will help get both sides talking.
On Wednesday, the board approved a letter be sent to the province and the B.C. Teachers Federation, calling for the two sides to discuss ways to come to a consensus on the controversial FSA.
Trustee Susan Carr said, in light of the head of the B.C. Principals’ and Vice-Principal’s Association, Jameel Aziz, calling for a different method of testing, it was still worthwhile making the request.
“Everybody does a letter every year, but with a partner group stepping up to make a change, it could make it something useful so we don’t have to go through this political football every year, so that we don’t have to put kids and parents in the middle,” said Carr.
Although the province has made annual FSA testing mandatory for Grade 4 and 7 students, the BCTF has encouraged parents to withhold their children from taking them because too much valuable class time is taken up preparing for them. The BCTF is also opposed to the right-wing Fraser Institute using the results to rank schools.
Board chair Ken Clarkson said, just like with telling kids what to do, there’s a need to keep repeating the message to get the warring sides’ attention.
“It’s exasperating,” said Clarkson. “There has been not one single discussion between the provincial government and the BCTF on his issue and that’s sad.”
Kwantlen Polytechnic University has approached the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school district to establish a university academy program that would allow students to take university courses while in high school.
While supportive of the concept, board trustees have directed Stewart Sonne, the district’s director of secondary education, to explore the proposal further with Kwantlen.
Sonne said there are many issues that need to be clarified, such as what courses will be offered, the cost, the transferability of credits to other area post-secondary institutions, and whether the courses will be taught by district or university staff.
“There’s a bunch of questions still here,” Sonne told the board. “I wouldn’t bring this forward unless I was pleased, but I still have questions.”
Although there are no plans on the books to shut down any more schools, the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows board of education is going to survey the parents of children forced to change schools following the closures of Mount Crescent and Riverside elementary schools about the transition.
When they were closed last June, about 275 students were attending the two schools that had a combined capacity of 871.
The moves saved the school district $900,000 annually.
At Wednesday’s board meeting, superintendent Jan Unwin presented a survey to be sent out to parents, asking their opinion on what the district did well in handling the closure process, what it could improve on if there are any future closures or “difficult situations,” and any other advice or feedback.
Trustees, however, directed district staff to also ask parents how their children are coping with the transition to their new schools, and to solicit feedback from affected school staff as well.