Wolf Creek Academy bringing benefits to Ponoka students

A program intended to benefit students with behavioral issues at WCPS has seen a greater need for services in Ponoka.

A program intended to benefit students with behavioral issues at Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) has seen a greater need for services in Ponoka.

Amber Hester, assistant superintendent of inclusive learning services at WCPS updated board of trustees Thursday, Oct. 1 during a regular meeting. She explained recent decisions to bring programs in the academy to Ponoka.

“They are very smart kids. They just had some interesting circumstances,” said Hester.

She said those personal challenges need further attention from the school division. While there are programs in WCPS at the school level as well as interventions that determine a student’s needs, the academy, now in its fourth year, is seen as a tool to help students get back to their schools and to give them tools to deal with their challenges.

Originally set up with programs to help students especially those in the middle grades to high school level in Lacombe, Hester says the majority of youths were coming from Ponoka. Because of busing and other time issues, those students were unable to take advantage of after school programs.

There are currently nine students in the program and all are from Ponoka Secondary Campus or the Ponoka Outreach School, she explained. Bringing programming to Ponoka was seen as a benefit for those students. Hester says access, attendance and continuity of programming is a primary focus for planners.

“Part of our job is to transition them into community work life,” explained Hester.

The other goal of the program is to ensure kids can interact with their classmates from their original school. “It’s not a traditional segregated program they are exposed to schools and other kids,” said Hester.

One question from trustee Barb Walker related to how the program would work if there were Lacombe students needing the service. Hester replied those Lacombe students would have to be bused to Ponoka. As the majority of students with the needs are in Ponoka, that helped with the decision to change locations.

Other areas the academy can help is by bringing family and students together with workers. Hester says staff have connected families to Alberta Health Services or other groups to provide parent and home supports if needed.

For students who go to school further away from Ponoka, Hester said rather than put an education assistant with the student, planners would bring in program supports.

The need for these programs came out of changes to social or residential programs in the larger cities such as Calgary for the central Alberta region. Those residential programs have been removed and school districts have had to look at ways to help their students. Finding out those needs has required some training on the part of teachers.

“Our teachers have done a phenomenal job of acquiring the skills,” said Hester.

Learning those evaluation skills can be challenging but once done it starts the steps to helping students with several issues.