Takhini nixes single gender classes

Female students at Takhini Elementary will soon have to contend with icky boy cooties again.

Female students at Takhini Elementary will soon have to contend with icky boy cooties again.

After a five-year test run, the school is getting rid of its single-gender class program and will move back to mixed-gender classes in August.

“It was given a good, long test drive so to speak, and we found out lots of things about our school community and our students. We feel that going back to mixed genders will open up some possibilities for programming that we feel will be beneficial,” said Takhini’s principal, Katrina Brogdon.

Takhini moved to gender-segregated classes in the 2008/09 school year under then-principal Kelly Collins. The hope was that by splitting up the boys and girls, students would be better able to focus on their work and avoid getting into trouble.

“There’s a lot of research out there,” said Alice Hartling, co-chair of Takhini’s school council.

“I think there was the hope that maybe it would allow the genders to work more consistently to their nature. There’s the typical expectations that boys move around more and girls can focus more, and to build the programming around those strengths,” said Hartling.

But after five years, Takhini’s students haven’t seen any surge in academic performance.

“It’s not really about whether single gender works or not … but when you look at the size of our school, with only 145 kids, I think this is where we realized that it was limiting to us,” Hartling said.

“Looking back over the data from the last five years, it’s been pretty flat in terms of improvement in either direction,” Brogdon said.

The biggest challenge is Takhini Elementary’s size. For larger schools with gender segregation, there would be a number of, say, Grade 5 classes for boys and girls. If a student were having trouble getting along with another student in their class, the teacher could move him or her to other classes. That’s not possible at Takhini. With only 145 students to begin with, having single-gender classes forces the school to operate with all split grades.

“When you have really strict requirements about who can go in a particular class, you have some pretty big inequities in terms of class loads. You might have one class with only 14 or 15 students, and another that has 25,” said Brogdon.

Putting the grades back together will be especially helpful for Grade 7 students about to shift into high school, Brogdon said.

“The reality is when they go to high school they are going to have mixed classes for everything,” she said.

Brogdon said that most parents and students are happy about the new change.

Contact Jesse Winter at jessew@yukon-news.com