By J.W. Schnarr
It’s a brand new school year at Hays school in more ways than a person might expect, as nearly all of the staff for the school is new this year.
New principal Bryan Pritchard said three of the four teaching staff this year are new to the school.
“There are only three people from last year who are in the building,” he said, noting the change was due to transfers and life events that can change the direction of a person’s career.
He said with the turnover, all the programs and initiatives ongoing in the school are new to staff, but there have been some specific changes for students coming back.
“It’s all pretty new to us,” he said. “(But) we’ve done a few changes.”
Among those changes are a literacy room added to the school, and staff has moved into a number of literacy intervention programs. He also said the computer lab was overhauled over the summer, with all-new work stations, with the addition of 10 iPads for students to use as well. Additionally, there is a “major” facelift underway at the school.
“We’re getting a major facelift at the front of the school in the next couple weeks,” he said. “It will be a fresh coat of paint, and some insulation. It’s going to look very different from the road.”
The biggest challenge for the school this year is first to get all the new teachers settled in.
“We’ve got one that’s moved into the community and is renting just outside of town,” he said.
“They are all very strong in their positions. It’s kind of nice. We actually have a math major that’s teaching a lot of math, and we have an early childhood specialist that’s got our Kindergarten and Grade 12 room.”
“A lot of the challenge is just that they get some seasoning, and going from there,” he added.
Pritchard noted the growth of the local Mennonite population in the school is one challenge the teachers are particularly looking forward to.
“It’s a challenge, but it’s a cool thing, too,” he said.
Some Mennonite students have received limited education in English prior to attending local public schools, and the Horizon School Division has one of the highest English Language Learner rates in the province with about 45 per cent.
Pritchard said in his previous posting in Picture Butte, he was exposed to the challenges of having a high ELL student base, but not one he saw much of during his time in Lethbridge.
“In Picture Butte I was, when you look at the feedlot workers,” he said. “In Lethbridge not as much. It was fairly uncommon. In Lethbridge, there were kids from Bhutan and Nepal. The ESL is nothing new, but it’s a different community. This is more going back to my first couple years, when I was in the high school in ‘Butte.”
As far as student numbers go, Pritchard said the student base is up from June, but still down from the beginning of the 2014 school year.
“We went down a bit during the school year, but we are up from June,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking at, starting off. We’re mostly just looking ahead, and seeing what will come for opportunities that way.”
Pritchard said with all the turnover, he has been impressed with the level of support from the community.
“The community has been really welcoming of the new staff,” he said. “It’s kind of exciting times. There is a lot of enthusiasm, and some really nice personalized learning going on.”
“There’s a lot of opportunity, and that’s kind of our theme for the year. A lot of opportunity for growth, and for student learning.”