Seventeen months after a controversial budget decision to go forward without a sexual-education teacher, the head of the local school board stands by the move.
“I’m very comfortable with the decision that was made,” said Ginny Manning, chairwoman of the board of the Okanagan Skaha School District, which received an update on changes to the program at its Monday meeting.
“Schools have worked through some of the potential issues that were picked up, and worked together to develop a program that covers the learning outcomes.”
Lessons related to sexual health for all Grades 4-10 students were once delivered primarily by a single teacher, whom the school board chose not to replace following her retirement prior to the 2012-13 session.
To save money, trustees instead tasked principals with ensuring delivery of the required material to their students. The decision met with criticism from some students, parents, educators and community groups who worried kids and teachers would be uncomfortable discussing the subject matter with people they see every day.
Trustees then asked for a report following the first year under the new model.
“Elementary schools seemed pretty self-sufficient. They were used to doing this themselves anyway,” said the district’s director of instruction and curriculum, Don MacIntyre, who provided the report to the board.
“Our middle schools were a little bit anxious when we started, because for some of them it was new, and same for our high schools.”
MacIntyre said a healthy schools co-ordinator helped principals identify teaching resources available online and in the community.
“Some schools used their in-house counsellors to address it, some schools used teachers that had previous training, and some used a combination of those two things, plus the availability of special experts in the field who could come in and do guest presentations,” he explained.
Two high schools hired outside help to speak to kids.
Learning outcomes ranged from teaching Grade 4 students about the physical changes they can expect at the onset of puberty to explaining elements of healthy relationships to Grade 10 students.
“By and large, (principals) were much happier with the newer model because it made use of existing personnel, which meant that the relationships with students were ongoing,” MacIntyre said.
Trustee Linda Beaven praised MacIntyre for his “thorough” report.
“I think it answers a lot of questions that parents were asking about how the material is being delivered,” she said.