Clearview Public Schools’ board of trustees will meet with Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange next month to discuss the challenges of keeping small schools open.
Trustees were invited to meet with LaGrange in Red Deer on Sept. 12 and board chair Guy Neitz said the plan is to discuss a number of factors, including transportation.
“We’ve been having to subsidize all of our transportation costs with education dollars, just because of the amount of travel we have to do every day,” said Neitz.
“We have a sparse population in a large geographic area. We have some students who are up to about an hour and a half one way to and from school, so about three hours a day they’re on a bus. Quite frankly, that’s not beneficial to any young student in their educational life.”
Neitz said every rural students deserve the chance to earn an education without having to ride a bus that long just to get to school.
The board also plans to discuss Program Unit Funding with the education minister, Neitz noted.
“Alberta Education decided they needed to put further supports to that Program Unit Funding, … but what they did to find the money is reduced our facilities, which is our operation maintenance. That keeps the lights on, the gas going, the water running – all of the utilities,” he said.
“They decreased that funding at the same time we saw the rapid escalation of cost – utility cost, fuel cost. Also, inflation came in. That is really putting us behind. We’re actually going to be running deficits in all of our facilities and maintenance budgets this year. Last year we did as well because they reduced funding.”
Trying to find the money to meet rising costs is the school division’s “big challenge” right now, Neitz added.
“Being in rural communities, we realize how important these small schools are. They help keep the community open and serve as a hub,” said Neitz.
In addition to the cost of transportation and keeping ride times reasonable in sparsely populated areas, trustees will discuss other challenges in keeping small schools open, including modernizing facilities with current budgets and the impact of school choice on rural communities.
The board will also discuss ensuring strong Career and Technologies programs are provided to students while addressing the challenges of increasing costs for supplies and ensuring high-quality teaching in the trades.
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