The Coast Mountains School District is linking distance education with a new trades training centre, both housed in the former Thornhill Junior Secondary School building.
“It’s a perfect partnership between the distance education and the trades,” says Geoff McKay, who is both principal of the school-district-run North Coast Distance Education School and the technical skills administrator for the district’s new trades training centre.
“We may have adult students or even school-aged students who are taking [a trades program] who are missing one or two courses to graduate. We can provide that onsite, which is why it’s so powerful,” he said.
The trades training centre set up shop in the former junior secondary school earlier this year followed by the distance education school which had been housed for years in the century-old school building beside the school district’s main office on Kenney St.
The distance education school traditionally enrols 1,000 to 1,200 students from across B.C.
With distance learning based online, students can graduate without ever stepping into a school, but McKay says he is excited for the new space and having a classroom available for students if needed.
“Sometimes a person gets stuck for whatever reason, or just needs a little motivation or a little clarification. It’s nice to be able to come and see a teacher and get that. So we are set up for that now in the new school,” he said.
The district’s new trades training centre is offering two ACE-IT programs that started early-September – welding and hair dressing in conjunction with Northwest Community College. The welding program is 28 weeks and runs at the college.
The hairdresssing program is at the new trades centre and provides students with certification through the Industry Training Authority. “It’s our only program that after 10 months, the individuals who graduate are ready to practice,” said McKay.
McKay says the classroom has an area for desks, which is openly connected to the work stations and shampoo chairs, with special lighting so hair colour looks the same in the facility as outside.
There is also the capability to stage video conferencing sessions in the future. The trades centre and distance education occupy over half of the space in the school building.
The school district will continue renting the gym to local groups and is leasing space to the UA Piping Industry College of BC which runs its own trade programs.
Over the next three years, the school district will continue to fill up the building.