Midway through their final of three high school tours, Spruce Home School Grade 8 students Regan Byers and Logan Jacobson found pros and cons with each school.
Taking a break from a tour of Carlton Comprehensive High School, both students summarized the school as “big” compared to Wesmor Community High School and Prince Albert Collegiate Institute.
“Not too big, but not really small -- but then, it’s good to have a bigger one because you get to meet more people,” Byers noted.
Grade 8 students’ transition from elementary school to high school can be a stressful one, with new friends and new surroundings.
Relieving some of their uncertainty, the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division offers them the chance to tour each of their three high schools -- an opportunity many students took advantage of this week.
“It’s an opportunity for our Grade 8 students to look at the program offerings and the different aspects of the high schools that match their needs and perspective,” director of education Robert Bratvold said.
Each high school is unique, he said, noting that while none are better overall, individual students will deem one the best for themselves.
Perhaps the more unique of the division’s three high schools is Wesmor Community High School -- the only one with a “community” designation.
Community schools include various initiatives that support “the whole child,” principal Cory Trann explained.
“We know that academics are very important for a child’s success in life … but in order to be successful in academics, you have to have a social and health well-being as well,” he said.
The school has a health nurse and a few counsellors who come in on a regular basis, supplementing the expected academics alongside various other programs made possible by community partnerships.
The school also uses a block system instead of the typical semester setup.
“Instead of having two semesters and five classes in each semester, we have five blocks with two classes in each,” Trann summarized.
This way, students take part in one subject in the mornings and one subject in the afternoons, allowing them more time to focus on one thing at a time.
“There’s nothing saying it’s better than a semester for academics, but it works better for us,” Trann said.
At about 320 students Wesmor Community High School sits between Prince Albert Collegiate Institute at about 200 and Carlton Comprehensive High School at about 1,800.
We all have uniqueness -- our three high schools. (The tours) gives them the opportunity to select a school that meets their needs. - Wesmor Community High School principal Cory Trann
Although the smallest of the three, principal Randy Emmerson is quick to note that Prince Albert Collegiate Institute has a “big heart.”
“We provide students with an experience that helps them graduate, and it’s one of those schools that really has a community and caring culture about it,” he said.
Leadership and community development are skills every student must learn during their time at the school, along with its “strong arts program,” and all of the academics.
Students must take part in various community efforts, including such events as Relay for life, a leadership conference and other things going on in the city.
“It’s more than just theory with a school like ours, with leadership demonstrated on a daily basis, with kids expected to be involved in lots of different activities,” Emmerson said.
This hands-on approach is being used during Grade 8 student tours of the school, with the students encouraged to take part in improvisational theatre instead of simply seeing or hearing about it.
Students represent themselves and their school with “pride, achievement, courage and integrity,” Emmerson said, noting that this is another acronym for Prince Albert Collegiate Institute.
As the province’s biggest high school, Carlton Comprehensive High School has its own advantages, vice principal Jennifer Ferguson said.
“People often talk about size as a negative, but I consider it a positive because there isn’t one label to pin on us,” she said.
It’s a big school, but this size isn’t necessarily translated into larger than usual class sizes, Ferguson said, adding that the wealth of opportunities, either in-class or as extra curricular activities is endless.
“I really do consider ourselves the sports school, the arts school, the academics school -- if you choose to focus on it, you can find someone who’s passionate about it and will make it happen for you.”
“We all have uniqueness -- our three high schools,” Trann said. "(The tours) gives them the opportunity to select a school that meets their needs.”
High school tours are always available to students and parents, Bratvold said, with those wanting to view a school encouraged to phone up the principal to schedule a viewing.