The WestShore Centre for Learning and Training is celebrating 30 years of giving back to the community.
“It’s a really important part of the West Shore and our history,” said Paul Block, district principal of adult and alternative education for the Sooke School District.
From humble beginnings, the Centre has grown to include six sites, has seen the addition of virtual classrooms and now serves roughly 3,500 students from Langford to Port Renfrew. “It’s grown into a massive school now that has three schools within it,” he said.
“Our student numbers continue to grow,” Block added, while staffing has tripled in the last 10 years.
Often, he said, people have a misconception that the Centre only offers programming for high school students who are having trouble in a traditional classroom environment. But the school hosts a full gamut of students, everyone from those who may need a little extra help to those striving for excellence in a particular field. And with a required SD62 planning course offered through them, he said, “it’s almost impossible that a secondary school student doesn’t take something with us.”
For students who may be looking for a different or more personalized education, Block said “we provide educations of excellence and choice.”
With programming that partners with different organizations on the Island there are a number of alternative options. One of those, which partners with Camosun College, has roughly 30 high-performance athletes that not only take the same required courses as other high school students, they learn about nutrition and the psychological aspects of the game. Often referred to as the “parade to the podium,” the program is providing training for a number of future Olympians, Block said.
While other schools have specialized sport academies, such as in hockey, he said those programs are offered to students of varying skill levels. The Centre’s Pacific Coast Hockey Academy is only offered to elite athletes, gearing them up for careers on junior teams and maybe the pros. Students split their time between the arena and classroom, earning their high school diplomas while learning all aspects of the game.
“It’s far from just school,” Block said. “The WestShore Centre for Learning for a long time has been the host of alternative education.”
And that notion of alternative education through personal learning and customized learning paths has become the focus of a number of provincial task forces and post secondary institutions. Block said they are bridging the gap between secondary and post secondary learning. He added it also gives students the opportunity to explore different education paths that are more suited to their individual needs and interests.
But the Centre is so much more than just programming for secondary students.
“We also serve a great deal of adults,” said Block, noting it’s not just for those unable to graduate at the end of Grade 12, for whatever reason. Besides programming to help adults earn their Dogwood diploma, the Centre offers a wide selection of non-academic courses. These continuing education courses include medical office assistant training, air brake certification, FoodSafe, forklift training, bookkeeping foundations, traffic control and others.
This programming is also designed around the Centre’s accommodating model. With Grade 9 to 12 courses offered from 8:30 a.m. until 7 p.m. and some non-academic career training courses running as late as 10 p.m., their course scheduling is very flexible. “We’re a 12-month operation,” Block said, noting that they do observe most traditional school holidays, such as spring break.
In terms of helping to better serve the West Shore community, anyone can make an appointment to chat with an academic advisor – at no cost. Advisors can help put people on the right career paths, even if that means putting them in touch with other career advancement groups such as WorkLink.
“We network and we help people find out where to go,” Block added.
For more information on the WestShore Centre for Learning and Training, as well as their other locations and programming, go to westshorecentre.com.