This year is set to be a busy one for the Vancouver School Board. In the coming year we've set out a number of priority areas, which we will be focusing on in the future. The list is by no means exhaustive, but it'll give you a good idea of a few of the areas we're going to be working on this year:
Aboriginal focused school
Last spring, the VSB held forums for parents and stakeholders to respond to the idea of creating a school or model with an Aboriginal focus. Dr. Jo-ann Archibald, Professor, UBC facilitated these meetings and has condensed the discussions into a report. These discussions show clearly that stakeholders in Aboriginal education believe a school is required which will honour Aboriginal values, perspectives and philosophy. The VSB has now taken the initiative to move ahead with the direction given by parents and stakeholders at the last forums by setting up a Steering Committee of representatives from the Aboriginal community and school district groups. The plan is to be able to open the school in September 2012.
The district has six Adult Education Centres which provide courses to adult learners seeking to upgrade their skills and credentials, or to achieve their secondary school graduation requirements. Currently Main Street Education Centre is in a leased facility which results in annual expenses to the district. During September and October, district staff will conduct a public consultation process to look at the possibility of relocating Main Street Education Centre into a building adjacent to Seymour Elementary School.
Blended online learning/VLN
The Vancouver Learning Network (VLN) provides secondary students with access to online courses. Starting this September, the program has extended support to teachers at secondary schools across the district, as they offer blended courses within their school sites. These blended courses are a combination of face-to-face class time for students and teachers, with an online component. This allows for a more flexible learning model, within the students' home school setting.
The district is committed to the introduction of a new Incident Command model for the VSB. When it comes to personal preparedness, this means promoting personal emergency preparedness of school staff and student families. As of June 2011, 341 volunteers from school staffs were trained on School Emergency Response Teams (SERT). SERT training will be expanded for staff at elementary and secondary schools in the coming year.
Hybrid semester system
With a focus on creating opportunities and options for students to best meet their potential, the VSB will be researching timetable and schedule options for secondary school students. Our main focus will be on Semestered or Hybrid -Semestered systems to compliment the current linear schedule and VLN options we offer. The goal will be to have these options offered within two of our secondary schools in the future.
On an annual basis we review and update policies. Last year one of our major initiatives was to update our policy on suspensions and exclusions. This year, once again, we will be looking at our policies in a systematic way, updating language and making revisions where required.
School calendar - year round schooling
As part of ongoing discussions with stakeholder groups, the VSB is exploring alternatives to the traditional school calendar. We are examining the possibility of piloting a balanced school calendar in a small number of Vancouver schools. The intent of this pilot will be to monitor the impact of a balanced school calendar on students, staff, and families in order to inform and guide district practice.
School fees review
The issue of school fees is one that requires regular review. Our policy was updated in 2008 and reflects legislation. This year, we are gathering information on all types of fees charged in schools as part of our review and are considering a move to standardized fee schedules for both elementary and secondary schools. We have begun the data gathering and likely will work through committees to present a full report to the Board in the early fall.
The district has embarked upon a Sectoral Review which is a process to gather information across the district on our programs, opportunities, facilities, enrolment and many other aspects of the VSB. The overarching goal is to determine what programs and opportunities we need to provide the students of Vancouver now and into the future. The Sectoral Review was initiated out of the school closure process and a report is scheduled to be presented to the Board by March 2012.
Strategic plan implementation
In November 2010, we began the process of consultation to develop a strategic plan to articulate our long-term goals and priorities and provide overall strategic direction for the school district. This was a comprehensive process comprising research and consultation with our district's partner groups and the public. In December 2010, focus groups were conducted with the Board of Trustees and representatives from our District Parent Advisory Council, Vancouver District Students' Council and all of our professional association and union partners. The purpose of the sessions was to gather input on relevant achievement, demographic, economic and technological trends, strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for the district. The results of the focus group sessions provided the foundation for the Strategic Plan and will inform continued planning work to be undertaken through the next several years.
In recognition of the importance of student voice in engaging our learners, student forums will be held on the topic of "The Schools We Want" and will draw on the diverse experiences and backgrounds from students across the district. These forums will be organized by students for students and will serve as a way for students to inform learning, planning and policy development within the Vancouver School district. We are encouraging all students to let their voice be heard and get involved either as a student leader or as a participant.
The district has marked sustainability as a key goal. This year we will be working to bring our initiatives in alignment and with our partners to develop a comprehensive Sustainability Plan. This work will go through the Management Coordinating Committee and will include consultation with our partners.
We are working on a technology learning plan to support students in becoming effective and responsible creators, communicators and collaborators. It is exciting to support students and teachers with innovative projects using mobile devices that transform teaching and learning. The district will continue to explore online meetings, in-service, communication and the effective use of social media. We believe that the key components for learning in today's environment include:
"� Innovation and Creativity
"� Information Literacy skills
"� Digital Citizenship
"� ICT skills
We aim to provide a reliable, robust and secure district technology infrastructure to support teaching and learning.