Jackie Bolack walks with her daughter Madison, 6, at Meadows School on Wednesday, which was the first day of classes across the Brandon School Division. (JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN)
Parents lead children up the steps to École New Era School on the first day of classes on Wednesday morning. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Brothers Alex and Colin Cook run across Young Street to their school bus stop on the first day of school on Wednesday morning. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Jenna Flatfoot and her daughter Jaidlyn watch from the doorway as her son Kendall takes his seat in a Grade 1 class at École New Era School on the first day of classes on Wednesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Six-year-old Alexis Mather walks with her mom Courtney Coburn and three-year-old sister Nevaeh Mather on the first day of school. (JILLIAN AUSTIN/BRANDON SUN)
Brothers Anthony and Nikosey Guillen check which classes they are in this year at École New Era School on Wednesday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
Grade 5 student Treston Moore swings his lunch kit as he waits for his school bus on Wednesday.
(TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
For thousands of students across the Wheat City, yesterday brought the familiar feeling of excitement and anxiety that comes with starting a new school year.
Jackie Bolack dropped off her six-year-old daughter Madison at Meadows School for her first day of Grade 1.
"She was very excited. We were in a different school in kindergarten, so this is her first time in a new school," Bolack said. "She was excited to come, but nervous that she wouldn’t know anyone."
Bolack said the first day of school can be even more nerve-racking for the parents.
"I am more anxious than she is," Bolack said, with a laugh. "I was all worried for her to make friends and everything, and she’s just smiling away."
Courtney Coburn picked up her six-year-old daughter Alexis from Meadows School at lunchtime.
"It’s pretty anxious and busy, very busy," Coburn said about getting for school Wednesday morning. "Getting back into the routine is kind of a good thing. It’s nice. The whole summer was great. She’s been so anxious to come back."
Coburn said she is very pleased with Meadows and its staff.
"The teachers are awesome," she said, adding the classes are a good size.
"It’s really nice that they’re not all crowded in one classroom. They’re all getting attention and what they need," Coburn said.
Meadows is one school that is nearing capacity, according to Brandon School Division board chair Mark Sefton.
"They have some English as an Additional Language students, they have a lot of bus students, and also there’s a lot of students right from that catchment area, so Meadows is one of the schools that is under some pressure," Sefton said.
École New Era School is a "major concern," as the student population continues to increase.
"That’s the one where we’re seeing the greatest growth in both the English program and also in the French immersion," Sefton said. "So we’re seeing big growth in both of those programs, and New Era is oversubscribed."
Preliminary enrolment numbers will be tallied later this month, but Sefton said the division is anticipating a significant increase.
"We’re expecting to be up, oh yes, without a doubt," Sefton said.
"It’s just a guess at this point, but I would say we’d be up over 250 from where we were this time last year."
Some of that increase is expected to come from new EAL students. Foreign workers who were brought here to work at Maple Leaf Foods are able to bring their families after a certain period of time.
"We’re also expecting just a general population growth," Sefton said. "Any time you’ve got a growth in the city’s population, you have growth in all sectors."
Looking ahead, Sefton said one of the big challenges facing the division is making sure there are enough teachers to cover the number of students. Depending on the population, there is always the possibility of adding more classrooms or combining grades for a split class.
"One of the things we have to analyze very shortly is how did our numbers come in and how are they distributed," he said. "One of the big challenges that we face every year is how to configure or how to deploy staff."
Another challenge is working toward the provincial mandate to cap kindergarten to Grade 3 classes at 20 students.
"Are we moving towards it? Or because of new students are we moving away from it? And how do we manage that?" Sefton said.
Welcoming students and making them feel comfortable is also an important message to get across.
"That whole ‘Welcome. We’re looking forward to working with you this year’ is always front-of-mind for teachers and principals and education assistants … the whole spectrum," Sefton said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 6, 2012