Normandeau School student Aliyah Bisson enjoys harvest garden soup, made of vegetables planted in the schoolyard last spring. The garden plot is part of the school’s nutrition education program (Advocate file photo.)

Normandeau School student Aliyah Bisson enjoys harvest garden soup, made of vegetables planted in the schoolyard last spring. The garden plot is part of the school’s nutrition education program (Advocate file photo.)

Red Deer’s school districts join forces to foster community safety by keeping kids in the classroom

Pilot project is at St. Teresa of Avila and Normandeau schools

Children who miss a lot of elementary school classes often turn into adults who are in and out of jail.

Studies have found a strong correlation between these two demographics, so Red Deer’s public and Catholic schools districts are taking pro-active steps to try and foster a stronger interest in school, thereby promoting community safety over the longer term.

The Integrated School Support Project is underway in Normandeau School and St. Teresa of Avila School. The goal of the pilot program is to give students, including many from lower-income families, more support in wherever they need it most — including with nutrition, literacy or mental health.

“We’re after a quick win” with measurable results, said Stu Henry, superintendent of Red Deer Public Schools. “We feel if students are learning and are successful, happy and well fed … they will stay in school and have a higher degree of success in life.”

This is key to creating safer communities, said Dave Khatib, associate superintendent of inclusive learning for Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division. “We wanted to see how can we co-ordinate our resources so we can work smarter.”

The project’s success hinges on a measurable goal — to see a reduction in absenteeism from elementary school classes by next June.

The co-ordinated project came about because the two school districts are part of the Red Deer’s Community Safety Strategy’s Leadership Team. It’s also made up of representatives from the city, police, justice, aboriginal community, social agencies, corrections board and health services.

Team members discussed what many experts have found — that kids who start skipping elementary classes will often have run-ins with the law as adults.

“We had these discussions and objectives, but we needed to do something tangible,” said Paul Goranson, protective services director for the City of Red Deer.

Henry recalled a study undertaken by a school division in Long Beach, Calif., in which wide-reaching community strides were made to help kids stay in school. The student absentee rate was improved through co-ordinated efforts by schools, police, mental health and social services.

Henry recalls even town merchants were keeping an eye out for youths who were loitering when they should be in class.

It seemed worth Red Deer’s effort to adopt this integrated approach, said Goranson. “We thought (it) could create a positive change in our community and better address public safety issues” over the long term.

The local school district pulled together a total of $500,000 toward increasing supports at two schools, which have a higher number of students who face socio-economic and other challenges.

At St. Teresa, a breakfast and lunch program was enhanced to give more nutritional benefits to kids, said Khatib. As well, the school’s students have greater access to more counselling resources — the kind families usually have to find outside the school environment, he added.

Khatib said teachers ask questions about a student’s absenteeism. It can result from sickness or abuse, but other times, parent might feel overwhelmed and unable to think of ways to get a child to class when they don’t want to go.

Since elementary-aged kids generally like school, this indicates other issues need resolving, he added.

Normandeau School also offers a nutrition programs, and now has a full-time phys-ed teacher to help kids stay active. Henry said extra supports are provided with literacy, and the school is in the process of hiring a mental health counsellor.

Meanwhile, two RCMP officers are making connections with Normandeau’s young students.

“The kids get to know them by name and they talk about community safety,” Henry added.

Both school divisions are hoping to continue the program next fall.



lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

red deer city

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The body of 25-year-old Kyler Corriveau was discovered near Red Deer on Sunday. He was missing since Dec. 15. Police are investigating his death as a homicide. (Contrinuted photo).
RCMP are investigating the death of missing Red Deer man as a homicide

The body of Kyler Corriveau was discovered on Sunday

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw reported 456 new cases of COVID-19 over Tuesday afternoon. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Five new COVID-19 deaths in Central zone, two in Red Deer

Province reports 456 new cases of COVID-19

Community Futures Central Alberta, in partnership with the Central Alberta Regional Innovation Network (CARIN), is behind the SMARTstart initiative for budding entrepreneurs.
New program aimed at helping entrepreneurs succeed

Program offers mentorship, business advice and networking opportunities

A Red Deer man, who has been declared a dangerous offender, lost his appeal of an aggravated assault conviction from 2017. Advocate file photo
Red Deer man who chomped on remand centre inmate’s ear loses aggravated assault appeal

Inmate lost part of his ear in attack at Red Deer Remand Centre in August 2017

Red Deer’s Wiklund vs. Wiklund is celebrating a burst of songwriting creativity during the 2020 lockdown by releasing a new tune to YouTube and multiple digital music platforms in each month of 2021. (Contributed image).
Pandemic lockdown fuels a flurry of songwriting for Red Deer music duo

Wiklund vs Wiklund will release a new single monthly in 2021

Justin Kripps of Summerland and his team have competed in Olympic action and World Cup competitions in bobsleigh. (Jason Ransom-Canadian Olympic Comittee).
QUIZ: Are you ready for some winter sports?

It’s cold outside, but there are plenty of recreation opportunities in the winter months

A Subway fast food restaurant's sign is shown in New York on Oct. 24, 2016. A defamation lawsuit by the world’s largest fast-food operator against Canada's public broadcaster over a report on the chain's chicken sandwiches can proceed, Ontario's top court has ruled. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mark Lennihan
Subway can press $210-million defamation suit against CBC for show on chicken content

Subway can press $210-million defamation suit against CBC for show on chicken content

 A man watches the financial numbers on the digital ticker tape at the TMX Group in Toronto's financial district on Friday, May 9, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese
Energy pushes S&P/TSX composite up as TC Energy shares rebound after Keystone worries

Energy pushes S&P/TSX composite up as TC Energy shares rebound after Keystone worries

AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

AltaLink seeks to refund extra $350 million over three years to Alberta customers

Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage speaks during an event to mark the start of right-of-way construction for the Trans Mountain Expansion Project, in Acheson, Alta., Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019. A government lawyer says decisions about environmental policy should be made by elected officials, not courts. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta lawyer argues coal policy decisions belong with politicians, not courts

Alberta lawyer argues coal policy decisions belong with politicians, not courts

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID-19 pandemic from Rideau Cottage in Ottawa on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

Trudeau vows to keep up the fight to sway U.S. on merits of Keystone XL pipeline

A medical team of the new Nurse Isabel Zendal Hospital apply a fiberoptic bronchoscopy to a patient inside a COVID-19 ICU in Madrid, Spain, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021. As the coronavirus curve of contagion turned increasingly vertical after Christmas and New Year's, the Zendal has been busy. On Monday, 392 virus patients were being treated, more than in any other hospital in the Madrid region. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Panel: China, WHO should have acted quicker to stop pandemic

GENEVA — A panel of experts commissioned by the World Health Organization… Continue reading

File photo
Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit recovers valuable stolen property

Property valued at over $50,000 recovered by Wetaskiwin Crime Reduction Unit.

Karina Gould, Minister of International Development, holds a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
COVID-19 vaccines: Canadians torn between helping the world and helping themselves

MONTREAL — The COVID-19 vaccine rollout is highlighting the disconnect between the… Continue reading

Most Read