At this time last year, the fate of Osoyoos Secondary School was dire. Due to challenges with declining enrolment, the school was scheduled to close. However, the Rural Education Enhancement Fund provided funding and the school remains open.
A year later and things today look much brighter for the students of Osoyoos secondary. The school’s brush with closure and its new flexible schedule to encourage student enrolment were part of the focus at this week’s Small Secondary Schools Think Tank at UBC Okanagan.
Educators from across the province were invited to UBC Okanagan to participate in the fourth annual Think Tank, hosted by the Faculty of Education. The event supports rural education and the unique achievements and challenges faced by schools in small, often rural communities.
"Several years ago our staff committed to looking for new approaches to teaching and learning at Osoyoos secondary in response to declining enrolment and the new BC K-12 curriculum,” says Mike Safek, Osoyoos secondary principal. “The outcome of the process, which was concluded before the school closure was announced, is a flexible schedule that has given our students more courses to choose from, more flexibility in personalizing their pathway to graduation, more ownership of their learning, and the ability to learn in high-interest areas."
Since beginning the flexible schedule in September, there has been a steady increase in the number of honour roll students, more access for credit courses for those students on track to graduate and better opportunities for students to explore areas of interest, which aligns with BC’s new K-12 curriculum mandate.
Safek notes that although there is much more work to be done at Osoyoos secondary, he commends UBC’s Small Schools Think Tank for being a place to share ideas, and gather insights from educators who face similar challenges in smaller school communities.
"UBC’s Small Schools Think Tank is a powerful venue to support innovation and change. Working with educators from around the province who are either wanting to innovate, or are engaged in innovation, is energizing and motivating. The collective energy and contributions of the group raised possibilities for us that will help us move forward in our journey."
“UBC Okanagan is so pleased to host and facilitate the 4th annual Think Tank,” says Susan Crichton, associate dean in the Faculty of Education. “This annual Think Tank allows us to focus on the richness and opportunities smaller schools and celebrate their success and innovation. Each case, presented during our Think Tanks has provoked important conversations and helped to form a rich community of educators.”