As construction of the new $55.2-million Salish Secondary high school approaches completion, Principal Sheila Hammond faces the challenge of constructing a new school community.
The school, located at 7278 184 Street in north Clayton, will open this fall. In the meantime, Hammond’s work takes place within the community, getting to know her future students and their parents by discussing their concerns and asking what their hopes are for the high school.
Hammond, former principal of Johnston Heights Secondary, has been working at various elementary schools in Cloverdale, as well as within the two high schools, Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School and Clayton Heights Secondary School.
In her discussions with students and parents, certain concerns have come up again and again.
“Certainly one of the big focuses has been what the sports program is going to look like. For most students, that’s their number one question.”
At the moment, without knowing who will be on her team — the process of hiring staff will begin next week — Hammond does not know the details of what sports programs might be offered as extracurricular activities. But Hammond reassures that, “if there’s an interest, and if there’s a sponsor, we can run it.”
“Will we have sports teams? Yes! Yes we will,” she said.
The French Immersion program will be moving to Salish Secondary, and Hammond can guarantee that the core curriculum, including “the usual” classes such as English and Math will be offered, as well as a few new programs, including robotics.
The open concept design of the school, which focuses on providing collaborative spaces, will also be unique to Salish Secondary.
“The whole integration of subjects — we’ll be able to do that, perhaps more easily than other schools. The school was designed [for it],” she said.
Aside from speaking with students about what classes or extracurricular activities they would like to have at Salish, Hammond has also been discussing what school culture they would like to participate in.
In September, Salish Secondary will welcome around 800 students, half from Lord Tweedsmuir and half from Clayton Heights, with a staff from all over the district.
“You have to ask, what’s common [between them] and what do you want? That’s the exciting part. We can build that,” she said.
According to Hammond, students want a place that is welcoming, and they want a school that is focused on leadership.
“I think that’s because they really want to make a difference in their community and beyond,” she said.
“I think that comes from [the fact that] they feel very connected to their Cloverdale and Clayton community. When you have that, that’s when you get that sense of wanting to give back.”
Students have also voted on the school’s future mascot — they will be the Salish Wolves — and their school colours, which will be red, black, white and blue.
Answering community concerns
Hammond is also fielding concerns from parents that sidewalks, crosswalks and transit options may not be available for students by the time that school starts in September.
For instance, a sidewalk will eventually extend to the school, but won’t be in place for when it opens.
Solutions for other problems are in the works. The City of Surrey is working to improve the crosswalk at 184 Street and Fraser Highway, by illuminating it and changing the timing of the lights, and Hammond hosted a meeting with TransLink in December to discuss the lack of bus service in the area for students.
According to Hammond, TransLink is looking at changing routes in the area, perhaps during peak school times, and that they were willing to work with parents on other options.
“We need to be advocates [for our students],” said Hammond, noting that the lack of bus service and sidewalks was “definitely an issue.”
Hammond is planning on setting up an open house “so the community can come and see what’s happening,” following the first round of hiring so that future staff can attend, if available.
“For us, I think it’s important for us to continue that connection with the community. As soon as the teachers can do that, the better,” she said.