Lake Cowichan School is not only growing but “bursting at the seams” according to a recent announcement on the school’s official Facebook page.
This fall the school, which has students from Grade 4 to 12, discovered an increase in its elementary-level enrolments. While they have not yet breached their maximum numbers, those classes are full, prompting some reconfigurations in the upper-level grades.
“I didn’t want to have to say to someone who moves in, ‘Hey, I’m sorry, we’re full.’ And I didn’t want people having to drive anywhere or leave the community. That’s not something I want,” said principal Jaime Doyle. “In order to do that we have the ability because we are four to 12, we have the ability to ‘cascade up’ and create some more split classes at the middle school level.”
Consequently, the school is making a split Grade 7/8 class and a split Grade 8/9 class. These levels were chosen because Grade 8 classes are also full while Grade 9 is the school’s smallest class.
“So we’re going to make one cohort of Grade 8/9 and that will take the pressure off Grade 8, so that our Grade 8 won’t be chock-a-block full,” said Doyle.
He said the decision was reached after much consultation with staff and senior administration. Doyle emphasized staff’s desire to keep classes from reaching the point where they are “maxed out,” which would compel new arrivals to the community to look elsewhere for schooling.
“We as a staff firmly believe in the ‘keep our kids at the Lake’ philosophy,” Doyle said in his public announcement.
Doyle acknowledged that changes such as these can be disruptive but noted that all schools with growing populations go through similar situations during the first weeks of class.
“I think it’s been a while since Lake Cowichan has seen this kind of growth in terms of the school population, so I think a lot of the teachers recognize that this is something that every school almost now in Duncan is going through and we happen to be going through it now,” he said.
“A lot of young families are moving into the area which is incredibly positive for the community and school.”
Doyle wrapped up his announcement by stating staff will also do their very best to ensure changes to classes go as smoothly as possible, taking into account each child’s educational needs.
“We ask for your patience as we do our best to sort things out,” he said.
Paula MacGregor, chairwoman of the LCS parents advisory committee, told the Gazette via email that because the PAC has not yet had its monthly meeting, she cannot say whether or not the committee supports these changes, however, she has not received any complaints from parents.
MacGregor recalled a situation several years ago in which a new family to Lake Cowichan was turned away from both schools due to class sizes. Their children had to attend school in Duncan.
She said she was pleased to know the school is taking steps to reconfigure its classes to prevent this from happening again.
“I am happy that our community is growing and thankful that our teachers are adapting and working around this catch-22 for the benefit of all involved,” she said.