High schoolers will soon have to get used to a new automatic door locking system that will not only amp up safety and security, but might even encourage students to get to class on time, according to the Brandon School Division.
“We know there has been an increase in gang activity periodically in the high school age range … we just know more about what we should be doing right now for safety and security and the more we know, the greater the actions that we have to take,” BSD Supt. Donna Michaels said. “Students getting to school on time has been an issue for a long, long time, but this might help.”
Just in time for the first day of school on Wednesday, all exterior doors at Crocus Plains Regional Secondary School, École secondaire Neelin High School and Vincent Massey High School will be controlled by a central console in each school’s administration office. Main doors leading into each school will also be equipped with a surveillance camera.
Principals will be responsible for deciding when doors will remain open and when they will lock. Administration will be required to meet with students to ensure they fully understand how the system works.
Installing the new door system at three high schools and school division office came with a $150,000 price tag, budgeted under safety and security measures, Michaels said.
“I’m pleased that we’re moving in that direction,” she said. “I think it’s going to be much more efficient, and I believe it’s going to save us money in the long run.”
The school board also hopes to install similar systems in all elementary schools in the near future.
Recommendations for the new door system were presented to board trustees following a safety and security audit done last fall. The general idea is that they will be usable until classes start, but once classes begin, they will be locked, school board chair Mark Sefton said.
“It will allow us a little bit more control over who’s coming and going and when they’re coming and going and we feel this will create a bigger sense of safety and security,” Sefton said. “We will have some sort of surveillance … to try and discourage the ones who don’t belong ... because those that don’t belong, don’t like to enter through the main door.”
These new doors are part of an ongoing effort to provide safe learning environments for students and no specific incident prompted the switch, Sefton said.
“I can’t comment on what most high schools have, I don’t know for sure, but my sense is not too many have this,” he said. “Our view as a board is that we want to be as proactive as we can when it comes to safety and security.”
Another change coming this fall is an emphasis on the use of technology for learning.
“We’re moving ahead in that area ... so we will be providing students with greater access, we will have more equipment in the school, we’ll have more laptops, more iPads, and eventually we will be looking at how students can use their own devices,” Michaels said.
Students spending more time online will also tie into Bill 18, part of the new province-wide code of conduct for schools.
The Safe and Inclusive Schools Act sets out to protect students from cyberbullying and helps ensure they feel safe and accepted.
Earlier this week, the Selinger government and Progressive Conservative Opposition announced that MLAs will sit no longer than Sept. 17, putting an end to what will be the longest spring sitting ever of the Manitoba legislature.
Before they break next month, they will bring Bill 18 to a final vote. The NDP will see the anti-bullying legislation passed just a few weeks into the school year and public hearings on Bill 18 will begin Tuesday. A total of 317 people have signed on to speak on the bill.
Sefton said the delay in passing the bill prevented the school board from putting the final touches on its social media policy.
“We absolutely have plans to move forward with it, we’re just stalled a little bit until the provincial picture becomes a little more clearer,” he said.
Other changes include a new math curriculum, with an emphasis on teaching students the basics.
Under the new curriculum, students will be expected to memorize their times tables, learn to multiply and divide on paper and in their heads before they pick up a calculator.
School divisions will also have to embrace new report cards this year.
The three report card formats will include one for grades 1 to 6, one for grades 7 and 8, as well as one for grades 9 to 12.
Along with displaying academic achievement, the new report cards will also feature information about students’ learning behaviours, so parents can understand their children’s effort and attitude in class.
The BSD has also made additions to its language development and reading recovery programs.
“We’re very well established to start school,” Michaels said. “We got our staff in place, we got our plans in place and we’re really excited.”
The division also hired 20 additional teachers over the summer to help implement the province’s K-3 class size initiative by September 2017.
In 2011, the government announced that it would provide new supports to enable school divisions to meet the requirements of the K-3 classroom size cap of 20 students. While 10 per cent of classrooms per division will be given the leniency to go beyond the cap, no classes will be permitted to have more than 23 students in a K-3 classroom.
Education Minister Nancy Allan visited Brandon in June to announce the government is investing more than $4 million to help add six new classrooms, funded through the Manitoba Building and Renewal Plan.
Meadows and Waverly schools are receiving two additional classrooms and gym renovations at George Fitton School will make room for two more classrooms.
But the new classrooms, along with other construction upgrades, won’t be ready in time for the first day of school this Wednesday.
“None of those are done and there’s no prospect of those being done before September 2015,” Sefton said. “The good news is, those projects are moving ahead, but those kinds of things don’t happen overnight. It’s just a matter now of getting contractors on site and getting going on it.”
The aboriginal education advisory committee, which was given the green light by board members around this time last year, will also be meeting again soon.
Although the committee’s inaugural meeting was held in February, members are still getting to know one another, Sefton said.
“It is fairly new so they’re getting to know each other and starting to determine exactly what their goals are, that all takes a little bit of time,” he said. “They’re looking at a number of things to try and improve the educational experience for our aboriginal students.”
» firstname.lastname@example.org, with files from the Winnipeg Free Press
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition August 31, 2013