Over the next month, David Eggen, Alberta’s education minister, will meet with local school boards and associations to discuss changes to the school act.
The potential changes largely focus on transportation, age and Aboriginal education.
Red Deer’s two-day session started Wednesday at the Radisson Hotel. Similar meetings will be held in Lethbridge, Grande Prairie, Calgary and Edmonton throughout September.
Before the start of the session, Eggen talked about what he expects to come up in these meetings, including improving access to education for aboriginal students.
“We want to make sure we get to a point where we have equal funding for all students regardless if they live on reserves or not,” he said.
Another issue raised was how the act handles the distance from a student’s home to the school. Boards are required to provide transportation on a route not more than 2.4 kms from a student’s home.
“A mile and a bit might have been appropriate for a time and place, but as we can see now with different trends and patterns that we need to make some changes,” said Eggen.
Other issues include age of access for students coming and leaving school and education services agreements with first nations. Eggen said there may be the need to be more flexible for students graduating and provide them with more opportunity to complete their education.
“It’s just a great way for everybody to get together, not just to talk about the issues, but to compare notes about how things are going in the first couple of weeks of school,” said Eggen.
Arlene Hrynyk, Public School Board Association of Alberta president, said the local boards will bring forward the community issues they face forward during these sessions.
“We’re pleased we have the ability to do so,” said Hrynyk.
“The most promising thing is the ability to lend our voice and work with the minister and the government to shape that in a positive fashion.”
While not the focus of these six meetings, Eggen said curriculum content and redesign would likely be discussed.
“We know the curriculum is between eight and 30 years old,” said Eggen. “There’s a huge appetite for strengthening math skills, language, history, critical thinking, coding and financial literacy.”
Eggen was also happy to repeat Tuesday’s announcement that there were 53 new schools opened this school year, including three in the Red Deer area.