Chilliwack school district will be hiring three new youth care workers over the summer to help build better relationships with its most at-risk students.
The youth care workers will be working out of Chilliwack secondary, the Ed Centre, and Fraser Valley Distance Education to work with students during times of transition from one school to another.
The school district’s continued struggles with this group of students was the impetus for the move.
“Our research shows that transitions are areas where we are losing kids,” said Ed Centre principal Chuck Lawson. “There’s a common thread as far as the importance of focusing some energy towards that area.”
Chilliwack school district consistently trails below average for school completion rates, hovering around a 70 per cent success rate in the last five years – 10 per cent below the provincial average.
Failed transitions is one reason why.
In the 2010-11 school year, Chilliwack had a 75 per cent success rate of all students transitioning from Grade 10 to 11; of that, 66 per cent of the aboriginal population transitioned, 74 per cent male, and 75 per cent female.
Lawson hopes the new hires will be the intervening step needed to curb that decline.
“Hopefully these adults will be able to establish a relationship with these students in an effort to help them,” he said.
The youth care workers will be responsible for settling students into their new schools, working with them, ensuring they are comfortable and have what they need to be successful. They will also work with the students on a plan to reintegrate them back into mainstream schooling – as “alternate ed is not meant to be a life sentence,” said FVDES principal David Manuel, who led the compilation of the district’s data on transitions in the last three years.
In addition to supporting struggling students attending the mainstream high schools and those attending the Ed Centre, a youth care worker will also be working with distance learning students at Fraser Valley Distance Education to ensure those students find success as well.
“DL can be really difficult if a student is struggling; they can become disengaged,” said Manuel.
Rather than just rely on email or follow-up phone calls, as was the practice in the past, the youth care worker will visit and work with students wherever they are.
“Our mandate is we’re the school that comes to you no matter where you are in life,” said Manuel. “This is about becoming better at being that school.”