Students head into a portable classroom in Chilliwack. (Greg Laychak/Black Press file)

Many Chilliwack school kids not getting enough sleep, nutrition and lack after-school activities

Survey of Grade 4s and 7s finds the issue more pronounced in city centre

Pre-teens in Chilliwack aren’t getting as much sleep, don’t have as many school activities, and don’t have as many adult relationships when compared to those elsewhere across B.C.

And for school-aged kids in the downtown area, it’s even worse.

That’s according to data gathered in the Chilliwack school district’s Middle Years Development Instrument (MDI), a B.C.-wide survey of students in Grades 4 and 7 asking kids about “their thoughts, feelings and experiences in school and in the community.”

None of this is new as the area has for years been subject to lower socio-economic indicators.

• READ MORE: Chilliwack school seeks funds for its most vulnerable

Of particular note, 53 per cent of children in Chilliwack Centre reported “low well-being”, which compares to 44 per cent across the district and 41 per cent among the participating school districts in B.C. Just 20 per cent fit into the category of “thriving” in Chilliwack Centre, compared to 30 per cent district-wide and 33 per cent in the 28 school districts and independent schools that took part.

In total, 16,508 Grade 4 students and 14,026 Grade 7 students took part in the MDI for the 2018-2019 school year. Chilliwack School District had 933 Grade 4 students (85 per cent), and 914 Grade 7 students (87 per cent) took part in the 2018- 2019 MDI surveys.

After-school activity participation also did not fare well for kids in Chilliwack Centre with 61 per cent reporting they participated in activites, compared to 73 per cent across School District 33 and 84 per cent B.C.-wide.

Just 50 per cent of kids in Chilliwack Centre reported having enough nutrition and sleep, compared to 57 per cent in Chilliwack and 62 per cent among all participants.

The MDI is a population survey looking at the big picture to be used as a way to understand student perception about lives inside and outside of school, according to acting superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam.

The Chilliwack Board of Education received a report on the MDI at its last meeting.

Trustee Heather Maahs asked what is done with the data if, for example, a student reports they have a bad night’s sleep or don’t have an adult that looks out for them.

“Because for a child to put that information on a piece of paper and for no one to do anything about it, that is a concern,” she said.

Arul-pragasam explained that the MDI is a population survey and is conducted anonymously to gather data that should be later acted on in the district.

Maahs also said she wondered how reliable the data is in terms of self-reporting because “12-year-olds have good days and bad days.”

Arul-pragasam did go further to explain that using the example of adult relationships reported by the students, moving forward, an action item could be created to ensure that an adult in every school “vouches” for a child in that school.

Trustee Willow Reichelt pointed to the Chilliwack Centre data and the low response about after school activities.

“One of the things that I noticed is a stark difference in different areas of our town,” Reichelt said. “It might be worth … working with the city, that some sort of youth centre downtown would be good. A lack of after-school activities in the whole but even more pronounced downtown, with 10 per cent in both ages groups saying there is not a safe place in their neighbourhood, that is not necessarily a school problem.”

She added that the district could work on education regarding sleep, with many parents maybe not realizing that children need considerable more sleep than adults.

Trustee Maahs reiterated her concern that children were putting forth answers to personal questions and being given no response by an adult to their answers.

“I kind of feel like we are asking the children to be vulnerable without any means of actually utilizing their feelings and doing something about it,” she said. “It doesn’t sit well with me.”

Arul-pragasam again explained to Maahs about the purpose of the MDI.

“I hear what you are saying but at the same time, this is a population survey.”


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