FH Collins must be rebuilt quickly, says council

The Yukon government must move quickly on plans to build a new school to replace FH Collins, says the council of Whitehorse’s oldest high…

The Yukon government must move quickly on plans to build a new school to replace FH Collins, says the council of Whitehorse’s oldest high school.

“I really don’t want this to turn into Whitehorse Correctional Centre, part two,” said parent Keith Halliday at a meeting Tuesday evening.

He was referring to plans to build a new prison, which have stretched out for more than a decade.

“I hope they actually build one while our kids are still of high school age,” said Halliday.

“We need to accelerate. Let’s get a plan for the school this year and build a school next year.”

Education Minister Patrick Rouble recently confirmed in the legislature that his government intends to replace FH Collins, which is five years past its intended life.

The parent council met to discuss a programming report, commissioned by the Education department at a cost of $200,000. The report was supposed to, among other things, identify what type of facilities a new school would need.

On this matter the report is vague, other than to say a new school should contain bigger trades shops, and that it not be build as a traditional “box.”

The report does make recommendations on programming, or activities within the school. But council members deemed it lacking in some important areas.

The school’s popular French immersion programs should continue, the report states. But this may require additional resources, as demand for the program grows, council members worry. These concerns are not addressed in the report.

French immersion students are expected to make up half the student body within several years.

The report emphasizes more help is needed for struggling students. But there’s little mention of the needs of gifted students, several council members noted.

The school once offered advanced placement subjects, such as calculus, said one councillor. This is no longer the case.

Recommendations to open up the Wood Street outdoor education and drama programs to more kids also met resistance from council.

Outdoor education requires students to be self-motivated, said Rob Florkiewicz. To open it up to all students would change the nature of the program, he said.

Teachers remain unhappy with a recommendation that all students graduate. This is unrealistic, said principal Darren Hays.

“We have students who, 20 or 30 years ago, would have been institutionalized,” said Hays.

Some children will never possess the academic ability to graduate, he said. Keeping these struggling children in school is not a permanent solution.

“Do you want a 29-year-old in a Grade 8 class?” he asked.

Currently, struggling children are funneled into classes that emphasize trades programs and eventually receive a “leaving-school certificate.”

This is not the same as a graduation diploma. Further courses are required before admittance to most college programs or university.

Not all parents of struggling children understand the difference between the Yukon’s leaving-school certificate and a school diploma, the report states.

The program at FH Collins for struggling kids, called Work Experience Life Skills, is ineffective and should be replaced with more one-on-one support for struggling kids, the report recommends.

Work Experience Life Skills has already been replaced with a modified program, said Hays.

Many recommendations in the report would cost a lot of money. It’s unclear how much additional money the Yukon government plans to give the school to fulfil these recommendations.

School counselling is one area that requires more staff, said council members.

The school of more than 600 students has two guidance counsellors.

“You get .3 per cent of a guidance counsellor,” said Halliday.

Contact John Thompson at johnt@yukon-news.com.