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Surrey Schools is getting a second International Baccalaureate diploma program, to be hosted at Johnston Heights Secondary starting in September.
The new program is nearly three years in the making, following significant interest in expanding the district's IB program and offering more program options in Surrey. Prior to this, the district offered the IB diploma program only at Semiahmoo Secondary.
"The teachers and team at the school have worked really hard over the years to bring a second IB site to the district – they've done a remarkable job," said Shauna Ross, Director of Instruction Continuous Learning. "We've had to meet a lot of criteria and standards to offer the IB program, including specialized training, and it's quite fantastic we've been able to do that in the midst of a pandemic."
Johnston Heights Secondary currently offers the middle years program for Grade 8-10 IB students, and with the addition of the diploma program, the school will make it a comprehensive International Baccalaureate offering, allowing the possibility for students to take IB all the way through secondary school.
Ross also noted there were numerous other considerations for hosting the program at Johnston Heights, including regional access for students of varied socioeconomic backgrounds, as it could be difficult for students outside of South Surrey to get to Semiahmoo Secondary.
"Adding an IB diploma program to Johnston Heights does increase accessibility and equity for students in a wider area of Surrey," she said. "We are the largest school district in B.C. and having two IB diploma programs at two different sites is fantastic as it makes this program more accessible to more of our students – they can access the program in the north and the south of the city."
The IB diploma program at Johnston Heights will start this September with a cohort of approximately 60 Grade 11 students, expanding to Grade 11-12 in the 2022-21 school year. Ross said the district will assess registration for this year and determine if the number of spaces will be increased in the future.
Applications for the Johnston Heights IB program will open on Friday, Feb. 5 at 8 a.m., coinciding with Semiahmoo Secondary's IB applications. A virtual parent information night for Johnston Heights is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 27 at 6 p.m.
For more on the information night, registration and the admission policy, visit the Johnston Heights International Baccalaureate page.
The weather outside may be frightful this winter, so it's important to be familiar with district protocols and processes in the event of inclement weather.
All students and parents are responsible for making arrangements to attend school and should plan ahead so that they can travel to and from school safely. This includes allowing extra travel time, checking transit schedules and routes to plan alternative transportation if needed, and wearing weather-appropriate footwear to avoid slips and falls.
Please note: If your school is open but you do not think the road conditions are safe, it is up to you as a parent to decide if you should keep your child at home. Please inform your school if this is the case. Student absences under these circumstances will be excused.
Given the varying weather conditions across Surrey, a variety of factors are considered before a decision to close schools is made. The district takes the following steps in deciding whether to delay opening or close schools due to weather:
A decision to close schools or delay openings will be made by 7 a.m.. Except under extreme circumstances, all schools and offices in the district will remain open if at all possible. Typically, no announcement will be made that schools are open. Only cancellations, closures or delayed school openings will be announced.
Weather-related closures and delayed openings will be communicated via:
For more information on weather-related closures, please see our district fact sheet (or click on the image above).
If you have any questions or concerns about safe travel to and from school, please talk to your principal.
Mentorship Matters - PART 1 from Surrey Schools on Vimeo.
It's a teacher's job to support their students' learning, but what about supporting teachers' teaching? That's where Mentor 36 comes in.
A partnership between Surrey Schools and the Surrey Teachers' Association (STA), Mentor 36 is a program for new teachers to be mentored by other teachers in the district as they navigate their first year. The program's vision includes designing a sustained culture of collaborative mentorship for teachers at every school in the district to support professional growth and a sense of belonging.
Rudy Kerkhoven, a teacher at Fraser Heights Secondary, shared his story of being mentored when he made the jump from teaching in an elementary school to Tamanawis Secondary, and how his mentor helped him overcome his struggles in a new environment.
"There was a colleague of mine there who embodied this calmness, this humility, this caring, and he was always eager to help me," said Kerkoven. "He wanted me to excel in the position... he remained my go-to for years afterwards asking questions."
Sadly, his mentor passed away years after, not without leaving a legacy. Kerkoven recalled the tremendous outpouring of support at a student-organized vigil where more than 1,000 people showed up, speaking to the impact of his mentor on so many.
"It was inspirational just seeing the impact that one calm, humble, caring person could have on a school, on its community," he said.
Currently in its fifth year, Mentor 36 has 311 participants and pairs mentors with mentees from the same school or family of schools. The program uses a strength-based approach to mentorship in a safe and trusting environment and teaches, among other qualities, how to:
Mentor 36 is overseen by a Mentorship Advisory Team, with support from helping teachers and opportunities like new teacher socials and open houses, participation in Teacher Mentorship BC, and providing resources and learning materials to teachers.
The program uses feedback from new teachers and mentors to identify markers of success, such as a feeling of connection to schools, improved staff wellness and resiliency, social and emotional support and sense of community with colleagues.
And as we welcome 2021, the district hopes to continue to expand the mentorship program as Surrey Schools keeps growing and remains the largest school district B.C.
New teachers, or teachers interested in becoming mentors, can join Mentor 36
here. For more information on Mentor 36, visit
This past year has been challenging for many students, but for Surrey Schools students needing assistance from speech-language pathologists (SLPs), the challenges have been even greater, but have led to some important and creative solutions.
SLPs work with students who have a variety of communication needs such as speech sound disorders, language disorders, stuttering, voice and social communication challenges.
During the switch to remote learning, SLPs encountered new problems with students who experience speech and hearing issues. However, as necessity is the mother of invention, district staff found solutions, such as live captions on Microsoft Teams to bridge the gap and provide quality education, whether online or in the classroom.
"There are a lot of tools and additional skills that the speech-language pathologists are gaining that will be part of their practice moving forward," said Selma Smith, a district principal in Student Support. "COVID has really pushed us to look at how to best service kids with technology. These staff are adapting to this new way of being and I've been blown away by how hard they're working to support students and teachers during this pandemic."
With the return to face-to-face instruction in January, Smith said speech-language pathologists in the district are following the provincial health guidelines, which present a new range of challenges such as physical distancing and masks, which can make it difficult for some students to hear them or lipread.
"The teachers have to project more while wearing masks, which can cause vocal strain," she said. "We try to make them aware of that so they're not shouting and hurting their voice."
To address these new issues, the district has added Plexiglas barriers for face-to-face instruction, to allow SLPs to safely provide instruction without standing too far away. SLPs have also made additional use of technology both during their in-person sessions at schools with students and when providing services remotely such as teletherapy sessions in lieu of in-person therapy for some students of Surrey Blended, which has presented additional benefits for students and parents.
"Before, students would be in school getting therapy from the speech therapist, but now, the parent has increased opportunity to be present in sessions and learning the tools and strategies to support their child," said Smith. "We're seeing gains in progress just because of that proximity to the parent."
Smith said she hopes the creative work of Surrey's SLPs will be shared with others including teachers and educational assistants. Some examples of workshops being provided for the district include, "Strategies for Encouraging Language Development" and "Getting to Know Your Touch Chat Vocabulary."
With all of the challenges brought on by COVID, Surrey Schools SLPs have prioritized and maintained connections with students and have found ways to innovate and try new interventions.
Old Yale Road Elementary: Playground Opening Ceremony from Surrey Schools on Vimeo.
new playground at Old Yale Road Elementary is officially open, following its grand opening ceremony on Monday.
The ceremony, conducted with several pre-recorded videos and on-site social distancing, featured speeches from Surrey Board of Education Chair Laurie Larsen, Surrey-Whalley MLA Bruce Ralston, PAC representatives and school staff.
"This kind of equipment provides an important outlet for outdoor physical activity and also has a direct impact on indoor instruction, allowing students an opportunity to collaborate with others, develop decision-making skills and successfully take on leadership roles," said Larsen, thanking the Ministry of Education for providing a $125,000 provincial grant for the playground.
"To our staff, students and parents, I hope you enjoy this new playground and I look forward to seeing the positive impact it has on your local community."
Vice-principal Carla Green highlighted the accessibility of the new playground for students with physical disabilities, noting its design "truly welcomes everyone" and allows all students to play together.
"This is an equitable gathering place for all students to enjoy one another," she said. "To everyone involved in the process of creating our playground and making it a space for all students to have fun, thank you so much, we are extremely grateful."
Acknowledging Old Yale Road's position as an inner city school, principal Joe Leibovitch said the province and the Surrey School District worked hard to ensure students in the area have the same access to proper outdoor equipment as students in other parts of Surrey. He also noted the new playground continues to make Old Yale Road Elementary a focal point of City Centre as it has been for the last 56 years.
"We know now more than ever that quality outdoor recreation is crucial to the health and wellness of our school community," he said. "Here in the City Centre, there aren't a whole lot of opportunities for outdoor options for families, and Old Yale Road has proven to be a hub for the community."
Many local schools wrote letters to seniors over the holidays, including Surrey's Creekside Elementary. Now, the school wants to carry the holiday cheer into the new year, by writing even more letters for seniors leading up to Valentine's Day and Family Day.
Creekside principal Margaret Geddes said the idea to write Christmas cards came from a London Drugs campaign that distributed tags to anyone who wanted to write to a senior. Geddes told her teachers, who were enthusiastic, but the store ran out of tags before the could write any cards.
"People in my school were disappointed, but I said, 'Wait a second, who knows a senior who's spending Christmas alone?'" she said. "They knew their grandmother in a care facility or their neighbour, and we wrote about 14 people on a list, including two volunteers in our school who haven't been able to be here this year."
While writing the cards was fun and thoughtful, Geddes said the response from seniors has led to a unique connection that her classes want to maintain, prompting the idea to send Valentine's cards and letters for Family Day.
"Most of the seniors emailed or phoned because it was a surprise to get these gifts and cards," she said. "It's like having a pen pal. The kids were really excited, they thought it was really important to reach out to our seniors. People want to be able to show that they care, and here was a little way to do it."
Normally, Creekside Elementary invites grandparents to the school for Family Day (Feb. 15). While that can't happen this year, Geddes is excited they can still connect with seniors by telling them they're thinking about them, and some seniors have already expressed interest in seeing the students in person when the pandemic is over.
Geddes said she has shared the idea with other principals and even looked into finding retired teachers and principals to receive cards from schools. While she has 325 Creekside students participating, she said other schools have the potential to connect with even more seniors.
"It's such a simple idea, and yet it's so powerful," she said. "I'd encourage other schools to do it. It didn't really take a lot of effort and it had a really positive impact on both sides."
This Friday (Jan. 15), Surrey Schools is showing its support for the inaugural Black Shirt Day, an effort by the Anti-Racism Coalition of Vancouver to encourage education and discussion around the history of racism and civil rights in Canada.
Our district is committed to anti-racism initiatives, and schools across our district will utilize this opportunity to recognize injustices and promote racial inclusivity.
These conversations will continue through initiatives including Black History Month, National Indigenous History Month, Orange Shirt Day, Pink Shirt Day and No-Name Calling Week, all of which recognize issues of discrimination facing our diverse communities.
Other anti-racism initiatives that will keep these conversations going include:
Under Policy #10900 and Regulation #10900.1, the Surrey Board of Education advocates for human rights and prohibits discrimination, and additionally endorses curricular goals and learning objectives toward the elimination of racism and other forms of discrimination. The board supports and endorses the values and objectives contained in the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the B.C. Multiculturalism Act, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the B.C. Human Rights Code.
Surrey Schools supports the anti-racism, anti-discrimination message of Black Shirt Day as another opportunity to promote inclusivity, positivity and acceptance in our schools and communities.
Sticks and stones may break bones, but words can still hurt – that's the message of No Name-Calling Week, an initiative to eliminate hurtful slurs, particularly as they affect LGBTQ2+ students.
Started in 2004, No Name-Calling Week (Jan. 18 to 22) was inspired by James Howe's
The Misfits, a novel about a group of bullied students who run for student council on a no name-calling platform. The week was founded by Simon & Schuster's Children's Publishing and evaluated by research from GLSEN, a U.S. education organization working to promote inclusion and end discrimination of LGBTQ2+ students.
"It's a society-wide issue that we're dealing with, and language is a big piece of this kind of work," said Nicole Curtis, the district's inclusive practices helping teacher for SOGI (sexual orientation & gender identity) and anti-racism.
"It's important to be aware of and sensitive to different words that people prefer, their pronouns, and different pieces of how language works in oppression. Words can be used to validate and invalidate others, like if you don't fit into a certain idea, you can be pushed out and marginalized."
Curtis said name-calling is a more prevalent type of bullying against LGBTQ2+ youth, and extends beyond the classroom to cyberbullying over social media, all of which can damage their self-esteem, make them feel unsafe at school and negatively impact them socially and emotionally.
"Surrey Schools and a lot of other districts have really clear policy around discrimination, and you can see physical violence happening, whereas words and cyberbullying are a lot harder to pinpoint and shut down," she said. "Because they're so much more vulnerable from the oppression that they face, this is just one more piece that we can work on in schools that is tangible."
While this is the first year Surrey Schools has participated in No Name-Calling Week as a district, Curtis said she hopes it will instill kindness in students as they recognize how their words affect others.
"It's not just a once-a-year thing, this is happening for kids all the time and it's an issue that is ongoing," she said. "We want to build empathy and inclusion, and this is one piece that we can make kids aware of and how damaging it is for others."
For more information on No Name-Calling Week, see
this flyer or the event website
While gang shootings were down over the summer, the recent rash of deadly gang activity in the Lower Mainland has raised concern among parents around knowing the warning signs for youth considering or entering gang life.
Teens from all backgrounds can get drawn to gang activity, not just students from broken homes or who've had rough childhoods, says Rob Rai, Director of School & Community Connections with the district's Safe Schools department. However, there are common signs parents can watch for to prevent their kids from joining a gang or stop their involvement early on.
"The first thing you want to look for is concerning shifts in behaviour," he said. "It starts with marks and attendance falling off, the relationship with the parents deteriorating, then it goes to staying out late with new friends and acquiring possessions."
According to Rai, new friends, a newfound sense of secrecy, changes in attitude and possessions that parents didn't purchase for their teens can be signs of gang involvement. He also said if a teen claims to have gotten a new job and is gone for hours on end, but has no proof such as a paystub, that could indicate illicit activity.
Communication is key, said Rai, stressing the importance of keeping an honest, open and trusting relationship with your teen and asking caring questions to know what they're up to. Children who have healthy relationships with the primary adults in their lives tend not to look for belonging and acceptance with negative peer groups and gangs.
"If you have a healthy, resilient relationship with your child, as parents or as a single parent, your kids are going to do well," he said. "Make sure you're a part of their life and checking in on a daily basis. Be aware of who their friends are, how they're doing in school, how they're doing socially, their social media presence."
Safe Schools offers a number of programs for at-risk youth, including Code Blue, PSST (Protecting Surrey Schools Together) and Wraparound.
However, preventing gang activity extends far beyond the school system, and Rai recommends parents also check out other comprehensive resources, such as the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of BC (CFSEU) End Gang Life website. The site offers pages to illustrate the myths and realities of gang life, booklets on youth and gangs (in multiple languages), and information on gang exiting and intervention.
Ultimately, preventing gang life starts at home, and noticing the signs early is far better than trying to stop it after it has begun.
If you believe your child is involved in illegal or gang activity, do not hesitate to contact your school to ask for help. There are many community partners who play a role in keeping our kids out of gangs.
For more information on youth gangs and how you can keep your children safe, please visit psst-bc.ca and cfseu.bc.ca/end-gang-life or talk to your school.
Kindergarten registration is now open for Surrey and White Rock elementary schools.
Children who turn five before Jan.1, 2022 are eligible to begin school in September 2021. Registration takes place online HERE.
Check HERE for a list of documents required for registration.
If you are unsure which school is nearest to you, check HERE.
If you have further questions, please contact your neighbourhood school.
*Please note that parents applying for a lottery spot in one of our popular 'choice' programs (French Immersion, Intensive Fine Arts, Montessori, Traditional & EKOLogy) must still register their child at their local catchment school before Feb. 10. Online application for the kindergarten programs of choice lottery opens Jan. 25.