It’s not just kids who are going back to school in a couple weeks – a lot of parents will be returning to their roles on local parent advisory councils.
With every new school year comes new issues for elementary, middle and high schools in Saanich, and PACs from across the district are readying for a new semester of challenges. The PACs are overseen by the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, which represents local councils at the district level and primarily advises the school board on matters relating to education in the school district.
“We sort of look at ourselves as the advocate and connection for parents and students at schools,” said Norm Tandberg, vice-president of the VCPAC. “We advocate and lobby for good learning conditions and organize PACs to work with the school administration.”
The Tuesday after Labour Day may mark the return to classes, but Tandberg said many PACs get to work in the summer to prepare for the new school year.
“Every school’s entitled to gaming grants, and that has to be applied for in August or earlier,” he said, noting grants are used toward things like sporting equipment and musical instruments.
“Then in September, hopefully they have whoever was involved in the PAC last year, but if not, they have to go out and recruit. There’s always a new batch of new parents and students coming to the school, and some moving on.”
The range of issues a PAC can take on is endless, ranging from healthy lunches to recess times to playground safety. While there are some common needs among local schools, Tandberg said the issues can vary greatly from one school to another.
“Some schools need seismic upgrading, some need a breakfast program – every school is pretty individual,” he said. “We’re always advocating for resources in the classroom – a little extra funding never hurts.
“We actually have one of our board people this year taking on earthquake preparedness. Across the district, some schools are really well prepared, others have the bare minimum and some have hardly anything at all.”
Tandberg said the role of PACs has evolved over the years to include more fundraising, something that was not originally the responsibility of parent advisory councils.
“With funding disappearing from various sources, there’s been a lot of pressure on schools to fundraise for different things they need,” he said. “That never was really a PAC’s role, the role was more working with the administration and creating a good atmosphere in the school.
“They’re finding creative ways to make it work, and a few schools have actually engaged a few grant writers because there is grant money out there for various things.”
Ultimately, Tandberg said PACs are an extremely important group in making changes happen at elementary, middle and high schools across the school district.
“The elementary school PACs are amazing,” he said. “They usually have 25 or 30 members, and there’s a talent pool there – everybody’s got connections, they know where to look for different things.
“It gets a little leaner as you get further on, but the role has really stayed the same. It’s just about creating a good learning environment for students and supporting parents to make that happen.”