As schools in School District 5 get their programs and classes underway, independent schools such as the Kootenay Christian Academy and St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School are also following suit.
While the public system across the province has been grappling with staffing issues resulting from a Supreme Court decision that ruled in favour of the BC Teachers’ Federation restoring class size and composition to 2003 levels, Cranbrook and SD5 have been relatively unscathed.
However, independent schools such as KCA and St. Mary’s are outside of the public system aren’t affected by the ruling.
At KCA, Wendy Zurrin has taken over the top administrative role as principal of the school after serving 18 years on the teaching staff.
“The last few years, I’ve been the vice-principal but up until that time, just being one of the older teachers and being here such a long time, I’ve always had that leadership role anyway, so when the opportunity came and there were some changes in this department, I put my name in,” Zurrin said.
KCA has roughly 160 students enrolled from kindergarten to Grade 10.
“We’re very steady with last year’s numbers,” Zurrin added.
Throughout the school year, there will be school spirit events such as pyjama days or superhero days while also getting out of the classroom and into the community such as volunteering at the Food Bank or picking up garbage in green spaces.
“Part of our mission is on service to others,” said Zurrin, “so just getting out into the community and we always go to Joseph Creek; we always have some classes go over there once a month, be with the seniors, do some reading and play some games.”
At St. Mary’s Catholic Independent School, staff are gearing up for another year of running the classrooms, after school programming and daycare.
Principal Jerelynn MacNeil says enrolment hasn’t fluctuated much over the last few years, as 125 students are enrolled from kindergarten to Grade Six. However, St. Mary’s also has year-round after-school program and daycare, which has seen an increase, MacNeil added.
The school has a new priest — Father Aaron de Dios — and is also partnering up with a unique animal therapy program for the year.
MacNeil says the school has paired up with Therapeutic Paws of Canada to bring therapy dogs into the classroom.
“What they do is they’re a national, non-profit volunteer organization that provide dog and cat visitation resources to all kinds of places in need, but this is the first time they’re going into schools here and they chose us,” she said.
The dog, who will be accompanied by a handler, will be in the school three times a week to work with a particular student or students for six weeks. After that six week period, new students will be selected.
The therapy dog can be used for physical comfort, mental, educational, motivational, socialization needs, MacNeil said.
“It can be for a variety of reasons,” MacNeil said. “Sometimes the students just sit with the dog and read out loud, it could be for other things too, like comfort, socialization, emotional needs, that type of thing.”
The school staff is also working to meet the requirements of a new provincial curriculum and new report cards, MacNeil added.