Byrne Creek to be Burnaby's first community secondary school

Larry Hayes -
Larry Hayes
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Kids who need the sort of help community schools provide don't stop needing it once they get to high school.

That's the idea behind a new pilot project approved by Burnaby school board recently to establish the city's first community secondary school.

The one-year pilot will start in September at Byrne Creek secondary where two of its feeder schools, Edmonds and Stride Avenue, are already community schools.

Funded jointly with Burnaby city hall, such schools are often open outside of school hours and serve as a place where students and their families can connect with resources and programs.

"Just because kids leave Grade 7 doesn't mean all of a sudden they don't need extra support," said Burnaby school board chair Larry Hayes.

"The thought was if we're going to look at a secondary school, Byrne Creek certainly made the most sense as a community that would best benefit from that sort of an initiative."

The pilot will cost $140,000. The money was made available with the closure of the Burnaby Central Bridge alternative secondary program, after the opening of the Burnaby Youth Hub last fall, said associate superintendent Elliott Grieve.

The pilot will be evaluated after one year and if the board decides to continue with it, a permanent funding source will have to be determined.

The money will fund a full-time coordinator, a part-time program assistant, and additional clerical and custodial support hours.

The goals identified by the project's steering committee are to extend services, hours and relationships and to provide more opportunities for academic, social, cultural and recreational programs outside of school hours, Grieve said.

The community school program at Byrne Creek would also provide more family support services, such as adult language classes and settlement services, and a base from which community agencies could deliver services.

For families that had received support at Edmonds and Stride Avenue while their children were students there, that support would continue at Byrne Creek in a coordinated way.

The steering committee was concerned that existing programs at the school were not being coordinated to prevent duplication and to remain sustainable, Grieve said.

Byrne Creek was operating much like a community school but without the funding to coordinate it. "It was off a number of people's desks trying to make it happen."

Burnaby will join a number of districts around the province that already have community schools at the secondary level, including Britannia secondary in Vancouver.

"Byrne Creek supports a diverse population of learners, including many new immigrants and refugee students, and I think they have been depending on the school for lots of supports," Grieve said. "Now this will enable those supports to be provided more effectively."

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