RRHS unveils new learning centre

The Rainy River District School Board stepped on a nerve, or rather into a nerve centre, last Tuesday night while holding its regular monthly meeting at Rainy River High School.
RRHS principal Casey Slack gave the board a tour of the nearly completed Alternative Learning Centre (ALC), which has been created there to provide a learning environment whereby students of various ages, abilities, and learning styles can learn comfortably and at their own pace.
“We had one girl this year that would have washed out [of school],” noted Slack. However, using the ALC, the student now is doing one credit at a time at her own pace.
“After doing a needs assessment last year, [former principal] Bob McGreevy and I decided we needed a nerve centre that provided a comfortable learning environment to help students with special needs,” Slack explained.
The new ALC is an old classroom that’s been renovated. It has a different feeling than a standard classroom, with ceramic tiled flooring, a kitchenette, warm soothing colour scheme, no white/black boards, an aquarium, individual learning centres, and new inviting furniture.
And when complete, it will have six computers for students to use.
It also has been linked by a new door to guidance counsellor Georgina Jarvis’ office.
Alternative education also is going to use the space and has its secretary based out of the ALC now.
In addition to the guidance counsellor and secretary, the schedules of RRHS teaching staff have been set up as such that there always is a teacher in the room to help students when they need it.
Education director Jack McMaster had high praise for the ALC—both before the meeting and during it. “With declining enrolments, this is a good way to help keep some of the kids in the system,” he noted.
Slack said the “comfortable” environment has been working so well that some students in the regular system have tried to re-engineer their schedules to get into the ALC.
“They say they want to be in there,” he remarked. “But that is not the goal of the ALC. It is to eventually reintegrate them into the mainstream.”
The ALC also may serve to bring those students who dropped out back into the school.
“As they hear about the program and that they can come back at their own level [or pace],” said McMaster, adding, “All those students count on enrolment figures if registered by Oct. 31.”
In addition to serving students in jeopardy of dropping out or falling behind, the ALC also is a place where students who want to work at a more advanced level can excel.
It can accommodate up to 15 students at a time.
“I am not going lie to you and say I have all the answers,” admitted Slack. “This is a work in progress and we will know better in time how well it is working.
“All I can say is I know the students [who are using it] love it here. It is like a family environment,” he stressed.
The kitchenette was put in to allow students to have something to eat when needed.
“We identified several students that were coming to school without breakfast last year,” Slack noted, adding studies have shown a good breakfast helps enhance the ability of students to succeed.
McMaster said that if successful, the ALC at RRHS could serve as a model for similar centres at the high schools in Fort Frances and Atikokan.
< *c>Trustee raises
In other business at last week’s meeting, the board gave itself a raise, passing new trustee honorariums.
A citizens advisory committee looked at what trustees receive across the province. The Ministry of Education then gave them maximums they could allot.
The committee recommended maxing the amounts out for local trustees. They now will receive a base amount of $5,900, plus another $800 per year based on enrolment figures.
If enrollment goes up, that amount will, too, and if they go down, it will drop.
They also will receive $50 for attending a statutory meeting (usually about 10 per year) and another $50 if they have to travel more than 200 km to monthly board meetings.
Meanwhile, Kendall Olson, principal of Riverview elementary school in Rainy River, gave an overview of the new Teacher Induction Program (TIP), which formerly was a demonstration mentoring project at local schools.
“We have been able to help shape the new program,” noted Olson.
In fact, the local co-ordinators of the demo program have travelled all over the region to offer assistance in getting the new program off its feet using already designed board resource materials.
The province has taken the demo programs and created the TIP, which is mandatory for all new teachers. Each teacher is given an experienced one as a mentor and has to have two successful performance appraisals within two
< *c>‘Best Start’
In other board news, Plant and Operations manager Raymond Roy reported the architect has nearly completed drawings for the new “Best Start” day care centre to be located at Riverview.
Two classrooms will be renovated and a 10’x40’ addition will be built onto the school.
“It should go out for tender Nov. 1 . . . and be completed by March of 2007,” Roy noted.
Sixteen pre-school and 10 toddler positions will be available at the new centre.
Also last week, trustees were told enrolment figures across the board are not declining as fast as projected.
In fact, McMaster noted they are 30 full-time equivalents above projections.
“However, it is still declining but with things like the ALC here [at RRHS], things may continue to turn around,” he remarked.
Meanwhile, the board last Tuesday gave trustee Gord McBride a round of applause and praise for his 30 years of service. He is not running in the upcoming election.
And Heather Campbell was appointed superintendent for the board.