The Wolf Creek School Division is moving forward with developing a long term strategy to deal with changing demographics and the need to adapt education levels for those changes.
Trustee Bob Huff brought up the idea of developing a long term plan – anywhere from three to 10 years – at the board of trustees meeting in Ponoka Thursday, Oct. 15 .
This would include how to best to deal with the various changes in the student population, the growing concerns of providing a level of education at specific schools as well as the demands those changes are putting on the resources regarding transportation and facilities.
“It’s about how we deal with all of these items. We can see it now with CTS (Career and Technology Studies) programming and other areas where we have either a hard time providing the courses or finding teachers for them,” Huff stated during the discussion.
“How can we meet our mandate to students if we don’t have a plan, and I think this is the ideal time to do this.”
The board did briefly discuss what kind of items should be looked at to come up with a plan, but later decided that it would be best for trustees to take the next few weeks to collect suggestions and then bring them to the next meeting on Nov. 5. At that time, administration will collate all of the ideas and come back some time in the near future with what would be the best way to go about generating the information that is needed to develop a plan.
Trustees will soon be visiting every junior and senior high school in the division in hopes of getting more student involvement in the business of administering schools.
The board is hoping to begin a new committee, called Student Voice, that would engage students and invite representatives from the junior and senior high levels to participate in and have a say in the educational process.
As this is just in the initial stages, the plan will start by consulting with principals and board staff on what questions and other information need to be asked when trustees meet with students at each school that are interested in taking part.
Following those meetings, trustees will determine the next steps that will include how the committee will be set up, how many students will be on it plus when they will meet.
Superintendent Larry Jacobs informed trustess about a meeting he recently held with high school principals.
The most important issue emerging from the meeting relates to the fact schools no longer have monetary reserves available and what could happen if any ‘big ticket’ items broke down.
“We have started conversations with them on setting up a contingency fund to replace items that might need replacement. They were concerned that if something like a $50,000 dishwasher or an $80,000 commercial freezer went down,” Jacobs told the board, adding that such an emergency would create an overwhelming pressure on school administrations to find necessay funds.
“After talking to them about how the contingency fund will work, they were all quite pleased,” Jacobs said.
Another item that was discussed was the process for an alternative Christian education program at the schools, a conversation that is just beginning to take place and one that Jacobs feels may die of natural causes.
“Originally, the idea was left to the community to decide what they wanted, the general feeling now is it’s hard to administer and the idea for that kind of program in our system may die off naturally,” he stated.
The subject was initially raised earlier this year through a letter from a parent to the board questioning them on the issue. Jacobs added that since the letter concerned curriculum content, not board policy, then it was sent to the education ministry to deal with and, as of that meeting, he had not yet heard back from the ministry.
Trustees approved a motion that would see administration look into whether or not there is a need at any of the division schools to have any portable classrooms added this year.
The province sent out a request to school boards asking if any modular (portable) classrooms are needed, and that applications must be put in by Nov. 2 for any units that need to be installed by the spring. Board secretary-treasurer Joe Henderson explained to trustees that he has had a look at the various schools and feels there isn’t a need for any right now, but would look at one school in Lacombe that could possibly need a unit.
As the deadline is before the board’s next meeting, trustees passed the motion giving administration the authority to apply for any modular classrooms they deem are necessary just in case the need is there.