Lethbridge schools welcome back thousands of students

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Lethbridge students heading back to school
Students, teachers, and parents are all waving goodbye to summer vacation - as southern Alberta schools began to welcome back kids to their classrooms today. Jaclyn Kucey has more on the first day back - and some of the challenges that could lie ahead for the new school year – Sep 5, 2023

Dusting off their backpacks, thousands of elementary, junior high, and high school students in Lethbridge are starting back at school today.

Thomas Scott, learning support staff member at Dr. Robert Plaxton Elementary School, said everyone was buzzing when doors opened at 8:30 a.m.

“It’s exciting to get the kids back, as you can see it’s super-duper busy, and we’re getting the kids coming in,” said Scott. “It’s nice to get back in a routine and get the kids back in here learning.”

Andy Tyslau, acting principal at Dr. Robert Plaxton Elementary School, said a new year always comes with new energy.

“It’s a big transition for some students, shifting grades, and shifting schools, so we just take it slow and we welcome students every day,” said Tyslau. “Whatever they need for that first week, we go slowly and make sure they’re comfortable.”

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Both the Lethbridge School Division (LSD) and Holy Spirit Catholic School Division are seeing growth.

Early numbers suggest the public division is welcoming more than 12,000 students and Holy Spirit, more than 5,300.

Mike Nightingale, LSD superintendent, said the student population is growing between one to three per cent every year.

“We definitely have prepared for growth, we anticipate there will be growth, it’s just a matter of figuring out where exactly does the growth land and how we have to adjust as a division,” explained Nightingale.

“We’re looking at low 20s for most of our classes, which we’re fortunate, but kids always roll in that first week and those low 20s turn into mid-20s really fast,” said Tyslau referencing Dr. Robert Plaxton Elementary School.

Ken Sampson with the Holy Spirit Division explained the south zone has historically struggled with a shortage of substitute teachers, but he’s optimistic heading into this year.

“Support staff are continuing to work on filling any last-minute vacant positions that would have arisen but we feel like we’re in a really good place,” said Sampson.

As for any concerns about a potential resurgence of COVID-19 and other respiratory cases. Tylsau said, as of right now, it’s not impacting day-to-day planning.

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“Nothing has been mandated to us so far, so we’ll just continue on the path that we’re on,” said Tyslau.

A path everyone involved is eager to get underway.

“We are really excited to welcome new families to our fold,” said Sampson.

“Enjoy the time because it goes very, very quickly,” said Nightingale.

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