Classrooms are cleaned and lesson plans are getting the final touches as Saskatoon teachers prepare to head back in front of the blackboards.
The first day of class for Saskatoon Public Schools (SPS) and Saskatoon Catholic Schools is Tuesday. Preparing for the hallways to fill with students, around 2,400 public school staff members filled TCU place Friday morning for a pep rally.
“I have been working for a few days, a few weeks maybe getting myself organized in terms of what I’m teaching and getting all my photo copying done and just sort of wrapping my head around the new courses and the new semester ,” Aden Bowman Collegiate teacher Marci Kiselyk said.
It’s the mental preparation that’s important to Walter Murray Collegiate teacher Michel Levesque.
“I think the most important thing for every teacher out there is to just relax, take it as it comes,” Levesque said. “You will have new students. You might see some old faces. The thing is just to be ready to welcome everyone back in for a new year. “
Grade 4 teacher Heather Bahr has already stopped into her classroom at Caroline Robins Community School to reset the classroom and make sure everything is prepared for next week. She said the back to school shopping isn’t just for students.
“The new school year, you want to start with something new so I always get markers and sticky things but I’m a paper nerd,” she said with a laugh.
As the first bell rings the kids are always eager to see their friends again, but that goes for teachers too.
“We are excited too and a lot of it is we want to see the kids,” Bahr said. “I want to see what they are like growing into Grade 5 and they always grow!”
The students themselves may be growing but so is the size of SPS, according to Board Chair Ray Morrison.
“We think we are going to grow about 600 students this year,” he said, adding the number moves around a bit until the end of September.
With the growth included, SPS will be educating around 24,000 students.
“We are now the largest the school division has ever been in its history. Growth presents challenges for us as a school division … but it also brings opportunity,” Morrison said.
“We have many new students that come to us from other countries and other parts of this country and they can share their experiences in class … It enriches the education of all of us.”
Over the last five years SPS has seen more students who are new Canadians and an increase in students with higher needs. Morrison said it’s a challenge to meet the diverse requirements especially because they were not funded for growth this year.
“We dipped into our reserves this year to the tune of about $3.2 million to hire 31 new teachers and support staff,” he said.
Although dealing with a tight budget is “frustrating” Morrison said they’ve dealt with it before.
“This year, because we didn’t get funded for growth, it’s placed some additional stresses on us,” he said. “But as a school division it’s frustrating for me, as a board chair, to not have that funding but on the other hand it’s a movie we’ve seen before so we have some experience.”
The first day of school for students is Tuesday. Secondary students will attend for the full day for registration and their first day of classes. Elementary students will attend school in the morning for registration but they will be dismissed at noon with the first full day starting on Wednesday.