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Teacher Newsmagazine Volume 17, Number 5, March 2005

From public…to private: Cuts threaten heritage school

by Sue Mackenzie and Monica Zurowski

Because of budget restraints and declining enrolment, Aldergrove Elementary School finds itself in the same position as some other schools. School districts must look into ways of reducing costs and in some cases looking at school closures. These are difficult decisions during difficult times, yet the loss of a community’s school means the loss of more than a building. It threatens to have a devastating effect on those who view their school as a stable centre of their family’s life, offering them much more than reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Aldergrove is a relatively small community in the Fraser Valley. Aldergrove Elementary School is a designated historical landmark (1913) on the highway between Alder Lanes Bowling Centre and some local merchants. Although the face of the main street has changed over the years, the old school building remains the hub of a school family that has provided an education to generations of students. Aldergrove Elementary has 184 students and a private, highly respected preschool called "Small Beginnings" that serves 80 families, some of whom will attend our school. The little elementary school, a bustling centre of services and activities, gives true meaning to the adage "It takes a community to raise a child." The parents and staff have been working hard for decades to provide a safe and nurturing environment. Designated an "inner city" school, it has directed financial and emotional resources to more and more services to families within the community.

Aldergrove Elementary School has very little staff turnover, and many of the staff have brought their own children to this school from other areas so that they might benefit from the exceptional level of instruction.

At a time when dollars are scarce and services to children are being undercut, Aldergrove Elementary has proudly managed to fund 1.84 FTE teachers for primary and intermediate learning assistance, resource programs, and behaviour support as well as 0.2 speech and language teacher and a 0.4 counsellor. The staff and families of this school community consistently recognize the need for special services to children in order to facilitate a successful learning environment for all.

Our staff works as a team to meet the needs of our families by implementing and maintaining a variety of other services. We have an incredibly successful early-intervention program, which consists of a Reading Recovery program, a Grade 1 learning assistance program, and a speech and language program that supports strong classroom instruction. This combination has resulted in Aldergrove Elementary’s achieving top Grade 1 reading results (district testing) over the past five years. All our staff support this program because we realize the importance of getting students off to a good start academically and emotionally. We have a help centre to accommodate one-on-one instruction, as well as provide recess and lunch social interaction activities in a supervised setting. The behaviour support co-ordinator has a social skills group that meets regularly for learning appropriate interactions.

The counselling centre has become an information place for families to seek additional help through community agencies and other resources. Former students frequently stop in looking for information or guidance regarding current life issues. Within the school, counselling is available for individual children, small groups, and parents.

The music program gives students a balance of musical opportunities including ukulele instruction. Choirs, concerts, and assembly performances are a small part of what our music teacher organizes and teaches.

This small school has a fully equipped computer lab, and an effort to maintain up-to-date technology is always apparent.

The Aboriginal Program provides direct service to many of our students with Aboriginal ancestry, and we value the diversity this program brings to all our children in the form of special days and activities.

Our physical education program includes sports such as basketball, volleyball, and track and field. As well, we offer all our intermediate students an opportunity to participate in after-school tournaments with neighbouring schools. This has greatly enhanced our feeling of school pride. For the past 30 years, Aldergrove Elementary School has had a teacher-supervised bowling league after school. Every Tuesday, many of our students head next door to Alder Lanes to be part of their school bowling team. Through these activities, our children have had the opportunity to develop good sportsmanship and team spirit.

Currently, we offer a late-French-immersion program for Grade 6 and 7 students as well as a full-time Kindergarten for our ESL and Aboriginal children.

Aldergrove Elementary School has been involved with Big Brothers and Sisters in the mentor program since it started many years ago. Our partnerships between little and big buddies have been recognized as invaluable.

For many years, children have been able to start their day with a nutritious breakfast prepared by volunteers from a local church. Some of the children continue to stop by in the morning for a bite to eat before heading to the local high school. Children can also have their recess snacks and lunch provided at school each day regardless of their ability to pay.

This elementary school is more like a large family, where we support one another, celebrate our accomplishments, and offer assistance to those in need. It offers stability and security to a community that appreciates the support.

As a community, we understand financial hardships, but clearly we recognize the value of investing in our children. It is not the building that we endeavour to save. It is the sense of community and family that we cannot do without.

Sue Mackenzie and Monica Zurowski have submitted this on behalf of current and former staff of Aldergrove Elementary School.


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