Two school jurisdictions will see some significant changes regarding bussing when classes begin for the new school year.
Trustees of Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) were informed of the changes during their meeting on Thursday, Aug. 25 with schools opening on Thursday, Sept. 1.
With the new intermediate school opening in Blackfalds, it has meant attempting to move more students to both the elementary and the new school which has also forced WCPS to implement an additional bus route.
WCPS secretary-treasurer Joe Henderson explained to trustees there will be additional costs to providing the new route, which will not be completely covered by the transportation fees being charged. However, due to a change having to be made in Ponoka, there should be enough room left in the budget to absorb the added expense.
“Due to a driver shortage, we have been forced to combine two Ponoka routes into one with a driver having to leave due to health issues,” Henderson said.
“We have just two spared drivers and neither are available to take that route, so this is the easiest way to accommodate the students.”
He added though, it does mean three families will have a pick up time about 15 minutes earlier than last year – 7:15 a.m. – while other families on the route will be picked up between five and 10 minutes earlier. The trip home will also be extended by the same amount of time for each student.
“There is a reasonable rationale for doing this and it still enables us to deliver the service. Plus, the times are well within the acceptable range,” he stated.
A Bright Future
Light continues to shine for the WCPS Bright Futures pre-kindergarten program as trustees were told there are close to 400 students enrolled throughout the division with classes slated to start later in September.
Superintendent Jayson Lovell spoke to trustees in his report that Ponoka Elementary has filled their four available classes – totalling 84 children – with a growing waiting list for all classes, while other schools are approaching capacity in most of their available times.
“Bright Futures has been a resounding success and there is now a push on for more resources for those teachers,” Lovell said. “It’s been a great initiative.”
Exact registration figures and a further update will be made to the board in October.
New course delivery
The work has been completed on the new blended learning delivery model of core courses between the high schools in Bentley and Alix.
Lovell stated the development of the new online delivery of course including math, social studies, English and some sciences has proven successful with the 10 teachers involved working much of their summer to complete the job so the course could be available when classes begin tomorrow.
“This (delivery model) has tremendous potential for WCPS to use in other ways and is different than other online models in that the courses are tied to a specific teacher that students can interact with and receive assistance,” he said.
Work will continue to help develop more courses in the future as well as possibly move into providing optional courses through this model and Lovell adding other school divisions have already inquired about sharing ideas and courses, though those discussions will be left until after an evaluation is complete on how well the model worked during this school year.
Trustees held their annual organizational meeting prior to the regular meeting and selected a new board chair and vice chair. Ward 2-Ponoka trustee Lorrie Jess was elected to be chair for the board’s final year with the next election set for October 2017, while Ward 4-Bentley/Eckville trustee Pam Hansen was selected as the vice-chair.
The board also approved a new list of priorities – called A Positive Path Forward – that Lovell will focus on for the next year. The list was developed during a one-day workshop with a consultant and include focusing on using data to ensure decisions keep in mind ensuring student achievement remains at the highest level; continued enhancement of communication with staff and communities plus inclusion of direct input from all stakeholders in guiding the WCPS three-year plan; developing strategies to increase awareness and understanding the impact for trustees of their decisions on student learning, and clarify the role of trustees to all stakeholders.