Uncertainty looms in new year for education

What will 1998 hold for education?
Bill Low, principal of Rainy River High School, said he doesn’t know–and normally he has an idea of what things will be like by now.
Lack of information from the Harris government, specifically the new funding model, is filling the future with uncertainty for educators, Low said.
“Normally, we’re preparing for September ’98 by now and we’re at a standstill,” he noted yesterday. “We have no idea what we’re getting for budget, we have no idea what we’re getting for staffing.
“That translates to us that we can’t even be certain what we’ll be offering for courses,” he added. “We’re just absolutely stalled.”
Fort High principal Terry Ellwood said he was experiencing similar problems.
“Until we see a funding model for staffing, we can’t project the kinds of courses we can offer for the kids,” he said.
“Northern schools and smaller schools are definitely on the griddle if the funding model doesn’t offer [enough],” he added. “Our school can be affected similarly but not on the same magnitude of Rainy River.”
The passing of Bill 160 also has raised several doubts about the future, especially when it comes to hiring non-teaching professionals for the classroom.
No one outside of the ministry knows how the bill is going to be implemented, Ellwood, but added, “I sure hope we know when we’re in the middle of staffing.”
Low said this uncertainty is quite hard on the younger teachers, who worry about whether they’ll have a job next year. And he’s left to wonder if he will have any of the young, high-energy teachers around.
“Teachers are trying to keep it out of the classroom but it’s always on your mind,” he said.
One foreseeable challenge Ellwood said his team of teachers is preparing for is September, 1999 when the new high school curriculum is slated to kick in.
Which means many of the students starting grade nine this fall, who will be in a five-year program, will be graduating with those who start in 1999 on a four-year program.
“We’re on the verge of brainstorming ideas to nip problems in the bud,” Ellwood said.
And not everything about the new year revolves around negative factors. Ellwood said the coming year will see a lot more technology and computer use integrated across the curriculum.
“We have access to nearly every major library in the world,” he said. “Research means a much different thing when you look at the technology we have.”
But the large number of unknowns is making it very hard for Low to be overly optimistic about 1998.
“We would love to see some positive things happening in education. The kids needs it,” he said. “But we don’t know.”