Changes at Tro-Val School



Changes at Tro-Val School: It is not only the principal that has changed. After 33 years of teaching, including the last eight years leading Trochu Valley School, Gib Andruski ended his tenure as principal in June, handing over the reins to Vice-Principal Debbie Barkman. But when parents and students came to school in August, there were a lot more changes to be seen.
Those who have not visited the school in the past year will notice that, with the closure of the K-3 Pontmain School in June, 2009, there are a lot more small children than in the past. While the Kindergarten class remains off site (located at the Outreach School site across the playground from the main school), Grades 1-3 are now at the main campus, resulting in a much more efficient utilization of space than previously. And, for the most part, people have been happy with the move. Transportation logistics for both the bus service and for families has been simplified, and concerns about older students not welcoming the younger ones have been largely unfounded, and, as an added bonus, student volunteering and mentoring opportunities have multiplied. Whereas, at the Pontmain location, it was basically just parents who were involved as volunteers, at the new location, the youngest students have active input not only from parents, but also from the older students.
The other, perhaps even more noticeable change is the ethnic makeup of the student population. Back in the red hot labour market of 2006, Sunterra Meats, Trochu's largest employer, was forced to look overseas just to keep its doors open, and they began hiring experienced Filipino butchers to come and work at the plant. Thinking long term, they also began the process of sponsoring many of them to become Permanent Residents (PR) of Canada, along with their families. After a lengthy process, most of those workers who arrived in 2006 and 2007 have now gained PR status, and brought their families over. 13 of the more than 20 Filipino families, now living in Trochu, have arrived since the January, 2010 semester break—offsetting most of the recent student population decline by adding 30 children to the rolls at Tro-Val, and creating some unusual difficulties—most significantly in last year's Grade 5 class, which added five new boys after the Easter break, running out of both classroom space and desks! To be sure, in this era of declining school enrolments, it was a welcome problem, but a problem nonetheless. However, for the most part through close and frequent communication with the management at Sunterra, Tro-Val has been able to stay ahead of things in planning for this, and so, while there is an inevitable strain as the newcomers adjust, there has been new life breathed into the school halls. The teaching staff notes that many of the new students, especially those from the major urban centres, come with a surprisingly good level of English, and that the students have been very helpful in orienting and befriending the new arrivals—a very significant factor in their adjustment and integration.
Principal Debbie Barkman is looking forward to a year of consolidation and progress as Tro-Val heads into its new multi-cultural era. While the workforce at Sunterra has stabilized, and the recruitment of foreign workers has slowed to a trickle, many in the group that came to work at Sunterra in late 2008 are now well along in their PR applications, and the fall of 2011 looks like it will bring another new wave of enrolment to Tro-Val, a rural school that is holding its own.