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Next stop... high school

Posted: 07/20/2013 1:00 AM | Comments: 0

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It may be a small step for the education system, but it's one giant leap for the Class of 2017.

Now that they've wrapped up their career in the minors at Windsor School -- a 192-student, K-8 facility in St. Vital -- they'll be spending the next four seasons in the big leagues at Glenlawn Collegiate Institute, home to 1,225 students in the last school year.

Glenlawn principal Irene Nordheim said the jump from junior high to high school is one of the biggest and most nerve-wracking in any student's life.

"I think it's a huge deal," said Nordheim, principal for the last five years and herself a graduate of Glenlawn. "They've had eight or nine years in a school where they've worked their way to the top.

"They're not the leaders of the pack now. They have a lot to adjust to. It's still pretty exciting though; it's not all terrifying."

The school has tried to ease the transition by having staff visit the junior high to answer questions, holding an open house and arranging a "scavenger hunt," in which the students explored the collegiate's maze of classrooms in a fun, non-threatening manner.

Along with the sheer size of the school, Nordheim said the Class of 2017 will be facing some fresh academic challenges.

"It's not until you get to Grade 9 that you have to earn credits to graduate and move forward," she said. "You have to earn 30 credits to graduate high school. In the Grade 9 year, they have to earn eight credits.

"It's a different system, a slightly different mindset, but it's a big deal."

With Grade 8 in their rear-view mirror, the new crop of high school students will also have to come to grips with a lot more freedom.

"They have two spares during the year," the principal noted. "The kids who are most successful manage their time, incorporating some studying into their spares."

Each incoming student will also be assigned a single teacher to serve as their "advocate" -- an adult who helps them navigate the minefield that is high school.

"They keep the advocate throughout their high school career and the advocate ends up giving them their diploma at the end," Nordheim said. "It's meant to develop a positive relationship with one specific adult.

"They address any concerns they have and talk to them about goal-setting and review their report cards with them. They're the school parent, so to speak. You have no idea how emotional that is."

In their rookie season in high school, the class will be grouped into so-called dens, which are a lot like the homerooms they had in Windsor.

"They stay within that group for the four core subjects -- math, English, science and social studies," the principal noted. "Instead of four teachers, we make sure they only get two for those core subject. It closes up one of the ways they can fall through the cracks.

"It's creating a school within a school for the Grade 9s."

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 D10

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