School District 58 is takings its first steps on its five-year strategic plan by trying to boost students’ well-being in Merritt and Princeton.

Wellness is one of four goal areas identified in the five-year plan, which was completed in the spring.

Each school in the district will outline its own goals pertaining to wellness by January. Six SD58 schools have already set down their goals.

Once the goals are identified, each school is in charge of drawing up a plan to reach them.

SD58 superintendent Steve McNiven told school trustees at their regular meeting on Nov. 19 that he expects those goals to be outlined by the end of the month.

McNiven said though each school has its own piece to the improvement puzzle, the strategic plan is the baseline document from which they all work.

“We need to have a system view of this work,” he said. “School autonomy has its value, but it has to be balanced off with systems and consistency across schools so that schools can work with schools, and districts can work with districts.”

The goals depend on an interplay of wellness factors that were identified by Health Promoting Schools co-ordinator Terry Strande in a presentation to the school board.

Strande said she met with social agencies in the area and took an informal survey of wellness areas they feel need to be addressed for healthy and thriving students.

Among those needs were communications and problem-solving skills; emotional self-regulation; and access to good sexual health information.

Strande said many factors, including socioeconomic ones, come into play in the school setting and end up impacting academic achievement.

“Buckets of research are starting to suggest that unless we have those wellness pieces in place and some of that emotional understanding, emotional language, some of that self-regulation stuff, the rest of it becomes very, very challenging,” she said. “That’s not saying one’s more important than the other, but one cannot happen without the other.”

Trustee Gordon Swan asked Strande about digging deeper in the inter-agency findings to address the effects of Merritt’s socioeconomics.

He said things such as the district’s high rate of children in care and kids in families on income assistance impact the district’s graduation rate, and suggested the district look at the situational factors around students who drop out.

Strande said identifying wellness goals is a starting point for schools and the research will continue.

The other three goal areas identified in the school district’s five-year strategic plan are learning, organizational excellence and community.

Student trustees chosen

The school district has finalized its student trustees for Merritt and Princeton.

School District 58 is one of only a handful of school districts across the province that runs a student trustee program.

The intent of the program is to keep trustees informed of what students feel the challenges and opportunities at the ground level are.

The district ran its inaugural program last year as a pilot project, and established a few changes for this year’s student trustees.

One student from Grade 11 and one from Grade 12 from each of the two high schools in the district will sit in on meetings in their respective communities.

The Grade 11 students have a two-year term, so next year, the district will choose one Grade 11 student from MSS and one from PSS.

This year’s student trustees from Merritt are Grade 11 Cohen McCormack and Grade 12 Alison McElveen.

Board chair Gordon Comeau said the board will also outline more roles and responsibilities for the student trustees in the second year of the program.

SD58 superintendent Steve McNiven said he was impressed with the students who put their names forward during the selection process.