Enrollment holding steady as students head back to school Sept. 4

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Tuesday, August 28 2018

September 4 will see students head back to school, and at Gabriola Elementary School there will be a new principal waiting to welcome them in.

Dr. Robert Hoban is taking over at GES, as Dave Travers will be principal at Ladysmith Secondary School.

For the last two years Hoban has been principal at Rutherford Elementary. Prior to that, he worked (with Travers) at John Barsby school in Nanaimo.

Hoban said, “Dave came to Gabriola, I went to Rutherford.”

He first became a principal in 1997. Ten of Hoban’s years as a principal have been at elementary schools.

“My preference has always been the small schools.

“I like the sense of community, getting to know people. I like that I know every student’s name. That’s a part of their success, for the principal to be engaged in their learning and educational experience.

“I know this school has a strong community, for me it’s going to be becoming part of that.”

He says a big role for the principal is also to support those who are working in students’ lives - be they teachers, parents, or support staff.

“They need to get the support from me, and the kids get the message this is their education.”

Hoban said he has heard there are rumours out there that he’s a safety guy.

“I have a background in firefighting, EMS, marine rescue, both in BC and from before coming to BC. So I’m one of the resource people for the school for the kids to have safety.”

At one time, he was also a coxswain with the Coast Guard station in Ladysmith. His current vessel is a five-person hovercraft.

Hoban explained said being a “safety guy” doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t be allowing students to stretch themselves.

“There’s a difference between safety and qualities of social activities through play. 

“It is very important for the kids to have play - they learn a lot through play. If anything, kids don’t get enough play.”

That being said - allowing students to create and organize their own play - especially outside - is something he wants to encourage.

“There are a lot of studies supporting that, they learn so much from that. Motor skills, social skills, it gives them time to problem solve. Those are things beyond the traditional sitting in the classroom.”

So far, based on registration, the school looks to have around 160 students going into this year, higher than the 148 which had registered before the start of 2017.

By the second week of the 2017/2018 school year there were 166 students in the school.

In 2016, the school had 157 students. In 2015, there were 150, down from 163 in 2014; and 177 in 2013.

Hoban said that as with every year, the preliminary enrollment numbers are just that, preliminary.

“There may still be people looking to move, both to and away from the island.

“We write everything down in pencil at the start of the year.”

He doesn’t see there being a lot of movement though.

“I think Dave and the staff worked hard in the spring. Unless there are big changes, I don’t see that impacting us this year.”

He doesn’t see much will change this year from a curriculum or extra-curricular standpoint. The track and field program which has been growing over the past couple of years will continue, he said, pointing out his scratch pad with notes and names of coaches.

“Last spring I was at the track meet, I was watching the Gabriola kids placing high in the standings; obviously there is a strong program here.”

“Our kids aren’t getting as much exercise as in the past, so for programs like that, for people who want to support the kinesthetic literacy for the kids, I think that’s an opportunity.”

Staff wise, Kathy Gurr is returning to GES after a year away, and she will be teaching the Kindergarten class.

Hoban said he has just put up a new posting for a full-time student support teacher; having that position be full-time is a change for this year.

“The role is complex. They do case management for students with special learning needs.”

He clarified that the support can be for students within a wide range of needs - whether it is needing help with the learning, or potentially with behaviour which gets in the way of their ability to learn.

“We work with the parents and the student support teacher on that...so a student support teacher has a very important role in the school.”

A new way to start school this year came through a GES staff initiative.

Rather than having parents have to track down everything on the back-to-school list, the school will be providing all the back-to-school supplies for the students at a flat fee to the parents.

Hoban said, “Parents can focus on clothes, shoes, backpack, but we’ve taken some of that pressure off.”

He said as the school is able, they will source those supplies locally rather than through wholesalers.