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Scaled back Remembrance service upsets WGSS students

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Students at Walnut Grove Secondary are outraged that their Remembrance Day assembly has been cancelled.

Jessica Olszewski, a Grade 12 student at Walnut Grove, told The Times that despite having Remembrance Day assemblies in past years, her school is not organizing a major ceremony for students this year.

“Everyone was pretty mad. Honestly it was jaw-dropping,” she said. “It’s insanely disrespectful.”

Cari Andrews, also in Grade 12, says she is very disappointed.

“I think it’s extremely disrespectful. It’s important because these soldiers fought for us. It doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.

Instead of an assembly, the school is having the students read pieces over the P.A. system, followed by a moment of silence — something Olszewski believes is not good enough.

“It’s not anything sentimental at all,”  she said.

Given the current teachers’ strike, Walnut Grove principal Jim Darby believes holding this type of ceremony is the best alternative for the school’s situation this year.

“The idea of doing it this way came from one of our other members of the admin team here, and in their experience it had been done in other schools and it went over remarkably well. The impact was there,” he said.

“I didn’t want to put teachers in an awkward position to have to make a decision, particularly when it is Remembrance Day. We didn’t want a political piece crowding what is a solemn occasion.”

The students are also blaming the teachers’ strike for the cancellation, but the Langley Teachers Association says this is not the case.

“We have not issued any directive to cancel Remembrance Day, in fact that’s the one assembly that’s mandated through the School Act,”  said LTA president Gail Chaddock-Costello.

“Every school must hold some form of an assembly. It can be as simple as asking all students to bow their heads in a moment of silence while they read a prayer over the P.A. system. Exactly what is included in the Remembrance Day ceremony can be very simple to complex, but some sort of recognition must be given.”

Chaddock-Costello says it is up to the administrators to organize any type of assembly, not the teachers.

“Our directive to teachers is that they are not to organize them during job action but if they receive information that they are to bring students to the gymnasium or somewhere to participate at such and such a time, then they will do that and students will attend.”

Walnut Grove students have taken to making their own posters and creating a Power Point presentation to show other students the significance of Remembrance Day.

“Especially for the Grade 8 students it’s important to teach them the importance of this day,” Olszewski said.

Other secondary schools in Langley including D.W. Poppy, Aldergrove Community Secondary and Brookswood Secondary are holding their regular assemblies to be attended by the whole school.

Aldergrove has organized a multi disciplinary presentation and drama students at Brookswood are putting together a performance.

Langley Secondary School, on the other hand, has also opted to hold a minute of silence and will hand out poppies to students.

“Based on opinions of my colleagues, it will have most of the sentiment of an assembly,” Darby said. “It will be different.

“It is a change, and I’d say some of the sentimentality will be lost. But I think if students are quiet in their classrooms and are listening to what is being said, it will not be as good as being in the gym but it’s very close.”

Darby says Walnut Grove is planning on returning to regular Remembrance Day assemblies next year.

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