Grade 9 student Floyd Dobell works the chop saw at Metchosin Technical Centre

Metchosin tech centre a beloved alternative

Metchosin Technical Centre is hosting an open house as it prepares for changes to School District 62’s alternative education landscape.

Metchosin Technical Centre is hosting an open house this weekend, as it prepares for changes to School District 62’s alternative education landscape.

Students choose to attend the tech school, typically because they are interested in the trades and are attracted to the real hands-on, project-based learning offered there.

“It’s open, they allow lots of different things,” Grade 9 student Jake Clark said. “You can fall through the cracks if you go to the bigger schools if you don’t exactly fit in.”

Clark hopes to become either an electrician or a welder, so the tech school seemed like an obvious choice. He said he likes the smaller classes, the camaraderie and the physicality of the courses.

Clark said he doesn’t know how students in regular classes do it.

“Terrible. I don’t know if I could even go through that, I’m so used to this now.”

“It was designed to re-engage kids in activities at school. Because by Grade 9, end of Grade 8, boys in particular, school becomes pretty unimportant in the scheme of things,” vice principal Keith Boggs said. “The transition between Grade 9 and 10 is pretty difficult.”

Attendance rates are “phenomenal”, Boggs said, and the school is typically on par with or above provincial averages for testing, despite about 60 per cent of its students having some sort of special learning designation.

The school has smaller class sizes and puts an emphasis on learning outside of the classroom, with lots of field trips around the community, including a year-end camping trip.

There is an emphasis on health at the school too, with physical education classes every day and no junk food allowed on school property. Fruit and veggies are provided to students at no cost as an alternative.

“Once (students) come they don’t want to leave,” Boggs said.

Starting this September, the tech school is going back to being exclusively Grade 9 and 10, after having Grade 11 and 12 students for the past few years.

The move is a part of School District 62’s consolidation of its alternative schooling programs, which includes the relocation of Pacific secondary school programs to the West Shore Learning Centre Annex in Colwood.

“We’re trying to get out of lease agreements, it’s an ongoing pressure to the operating budget and money’s tight,” SD62 superintendent Jim Cambridge said.

The Annex will be home for students in the Grade 8 to 10 range, along with the tech school, and the WestShore Centre campus on Goldstream Ave. in Langford will be for students in grades 11 and 12. Staffing levels will stay the same.

“This can be a challenge, but the whole school, all the different campuses, have come together to work on this,” Bogg said. “Instead of looking at it as a challenge, we’re looking at this as a brighter future.”

Part of that bright future is hoped to be synchronizing school timetables so students are able to take courses at the various schools, even if they attend another one.

Metchosin Technical Centre day, on Saturday, May 24, will give the public a chance to drop by, see what students at the school are engaged with and have a look around the facility.

The day will include a bottle drive, bake sale, garage sale and barbecue. Money raised goes towards school programs, such as the camping trips.