Lacombe’s Wolf Creek Academy (WCA) is moving a portion of its resources, in the new school year, for the creation of a Ponoka campus.
The expansion will be housed in the Brick School — the former Ponoka Elementary School — along with the Ponoka Outreach School, although there will be no connection between the two.
A press statement released by Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) states, “There are a number of students who live in Ponoka and have been part of the local school community for a significant part of their educational journey but require additional supports to allow them to fulfill their potential. Based on the needs of this student population, we realize that we need to expand WCA program into Ponoka.”
WCA is not a traditional school, students have to be placed in the program as a result of collaboration between their original school and the WCPS Inclusive Learning team. WCA is in place to lend additional needed supports to specific students who require time to focus on behavior and social/emotional support programming, says the press statement.
“Students who need specialized programming that is more intensive than our regular schools provide attend Wolf Creek Academy for a period of time,” said Amber Hester, assistant superintendent of Inclusive Learning Services, in an interview with Ponoka News.
“Students can remain in the program for a few months or a few years depending on the needs of the student,” she added.
The statement also says, “It is also important to realize there has been a reduction of funds supporting WCA so this is not an expansion of the program only a reallocation of some of its resources to another community.”
“The reduction is about 15 per cent of the program’s overall budget,” said Hester.
“The reduction of the funds for the program was part of the complete budgeting process that we went through once we received our overall WCPS budget a few weeks ago. WE examined all areas of our school system and Wolf Creek Academy was included in that process,” she added.
On Ponoka site, in Ponoka there will be a teacher with a 1.5 fulltime equivalency alongside school social worker support and educational assistant support.
Some staffing times are also being reduced. “Admin time had been reduced from 1.0 to 0.5. The secretarial reduction has not been finalized. Teaching staff is the same as last year, they are just split between two locations . . . educational assistant fulltime equivalency (EA FTE) is reduced by two,” said Hester.
“The secretarial support will remain at the Lacombe site. Administration, teacher secretarial, and EA FTE have been reduced from the current year’s allocation but we are confident that we can provide an excellent program at both sites,” said the press release.
WCPS was concerned, because Ponoka students attending WCA had to be transported there and back, they were not having the same opportunities as other students to engage in other part of school culture. However, having a program in their community alleviates this concern.
The Ponoka campus will service grades 8 to 12, depending on the needs of the students enrolled and has one classroom with a maximum capacity of 10 students.