PARKSIDE SECONDARY School congratulates its largest graduation class in the last six years.
About 50 grads will walk across the stage and get their diplomas later this month.
That’s up from 44 grads last year, 40 grads in 2010, 27 grads in 2009, 24 in 2008, 20 in 2007, 12 in 2006, and the year before principal Louise Ormerod came to the school was three grads.
This is partly thanks to the closeness between students and staff and an increase in enrolment at the school, which has a cap of 120 on the number of students that can attend, leaving a waiting list of about 40, says Ormerod.
The cap covers all grades at the school, Grades 8 to 12, and has been there for a few years, she says.
The cap on students is due to space and size of the school and number of students for each teacher, says Ormerod.
“My teachers are only allowed to have a certain number [of students] in the classrooms,” she says, adding it’s for space reasons too.
Student to teacher ratio in the classroom is 18:1, and usually there are two adults in the classroom, a teacher and one worker.
But because the students work on self-paced programs, they can start at the school and graduate anytime through the year, she says.
“As soon as somebody leaves, I do have about 40 students [waitlisted] and one of those comes into that spot,” she says.
Those who do finish partway through the school year come back to graduate with their classmates.
The cap also helps so the staff and students don’t lose their closeness, she said.
“Right now we have the opportunity to be close to the students and the more students we have, I’m worried about losing that connectiveness, because the students and staff are quite connected,” she said about keeping student numbers capped.
There are different programs too: school completion which is students who aren’t able to complete a regular academic program and those who work at regular education ministry-designated courses and do have a regular graduation program, she explains, like Caledonia or any other school.
School completion students don’t get a regular Dogwood, another word for diploma that’s used at Parkside, says Ormerod. But they do get a chance to take an adult grad program when they’re age 19 and older.
“It’s totally different, says Ormerod about the adult grad program.
“They would have to come back to school and work at regular courses but not as many as regular programs, so it’s taking into account life experience.”
This adult program is for students who want to go on to college, university, or trade school.
All students sign a contract and, together with a teacher, go over their education plan, which sorts out what they need to graduate, and then they sign the contact agreeing to that plan to do those courses, she explains.
“We just offer it (regular grad like Caledonia) in alternative ways,” she says.
The contract lets students take ownership of, and engagement in, their education, she says.
“It’s a self-paced program so we don’t have somebody standing in front of the class teaching all of the students. They’re working on individual courses and the teacher is there to support students,” she says, adding a youth worker is there too to also help or support.
So Parkside teachers have to be versatile.
“In their class, they need to be able to teach all the subject areas and we divide them into grades,” says Ormerod, adding that one teacher will be teaching, for example, Grade 10 so the majority of students will be Grade 10 and the teacher is able to offer math, sciences, socials, and English.
June 14 is graduation day where diplomas, scholarships and awards will be handed out to students dressed in their caps and gowns at the R.E.M. Lee Theatre.
Then in the evening they go to the college for a dinner and dance, which is their dry grad and prom all at once and parents are invited, says Ormerod.
Like other schools, the students still have exams in the weeks afterward.
This year’s valedictorian is Raylena Lacroix and the principal’s award winner is Jessica Miller.
Miller was chosen because she’s an overall student leader, says Ormerod.
“Whatever she does, I know she’ll certainly be directed to helping people,” she said, adding she wasn’t sure what Lacroix wanted to do, but knows both want to attend post-secondary school.