Practicum teacher Michelle McNaughton goes through a lesson with Grade 6 students at Haa-huupayak Elementary School on Tuesday. Most of the class will be staying at the school to attend the new Grade 7 class next year.

Practicum teacher Michelle McNaughton goes through a lesson with Grade 6 students at Haa-huupayak Elementary School on Tuesday. Most of the class will be staying at the school to attend the new Grade 7 class next year.

Haa-huu-payak expands to Grade 7

There's space issues to work out but Haa-huu-payak Elementary School in Alberni is set to offer Grade 7 starting this September.

Haa-huu-payak Elementary School is set to offer Grade 7 starting this September.

The school’s board of directors voted in April to reconfigure the school from the Kindergarten to Grade 6 to K–7.

“We’ve already sent notification out to parents and we’ve advertised in local media that we’ll be offering Grade 7,” Haa-huu-payak principal Gio Mussato said.

The move is being done in advance of School District 70’s expected move to reconfigure schools to a K-7 and 8-12 format.

“It made sense to go to Grade 7 because if we didn’t then our students would have to transition twice in two years,” Mussato said.

The move isn’t new. The school used to have a K-7 format but switched to a K-6 after SD70 closed several schools and reconfigured to a K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 format, Mussato said.

Haa-huu-payak’s enrolment is estimated to go from 102 currently to approximately 120 with the new move, Mussato said.

“Our current crop of Grade 6’s have already indicated that they’re staying and we’ve had interest from other students,” he said. “We’ll be moving a teacher up and hiring another as well.”

School officials are wrestling with the issue of space to accommodate the new Grade 7 class. The school is already maxed out in size and space.

Converting the school’s computer lab is one possibility. “There’s a sliding partition but it’s not thick and doesn’t dampen the noise on the other side,” he said.

Officials will be discussing the space issue with the Tseshaht First Nation administration, Mussato said.

The reconfiguration is a small step towards the ultimate goal of having a full K-12 aboriginal school, he said. Such a school would have to be comparable to mainstream schools in the district which is no small feat.

“Nothing is impossible but this will require time, planning, resources, capital costs and a gradual implementation,” Mussato said.

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