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

Alberta children whose only symptom of COVID-19 is a runny nose or a sore throat will no longer require mandatory isolation, starting Monday.
477 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in Alberta on Thursday

Changes being made to the COVID-19 symptom list for school-age children

Chasetin Morin
Photo from RCMP
Three men accused of assaulting Blackfalds RCMP officer going to trial

RCMP officer shot and wounded one of alleged attackers in December 2019

The Cenovus Energy Inc. logo seen at the company's headquarters in Calgary, Alta., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
One-time costs of Husky takeover expected to be about $500 million, says Cenovus CEO

One-time costs of Husky takeover expected to be about $500 million, says Cenovus CEO

This drum circle was one of a multitude of activities held at The Hub on Ross in downtown Red Deer. The facility was permanently closed by the provincial government his week. (Advocate file photo.)
Many Red Deerians react with anger, dismay at closure of The Hub on Ross

Many disabled people can’t afford other recerational options, says guardian

Award-winning Calgary developer Brad Remington stands with Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the site of three multi-family condo complexes that are planned for Capstone, west of Carnival Cinemas. (Photo by LANA MICHELIn/Advocate staff).
$36M condo project on its way to Capstone development

Calgary developer plans to create 180 housing units to open in 2022

Alice Kolisnyk, deputy director of the Red Deer Food Bank, says the agency expects an increase in demand as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Every new subscription to the Red Deer Advocate includes a $50 donation to the food bank. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Support the food bank with a subscription to the Red Deer Advocate

The community’s most vulnerable members are always in need of a hand,… Continue reading

Workers at Olymel's Red Deer pork processing plant are among those eligible for a $2-an-hour bonus because of the pandemic.
Red Deer Advocate file photo
Two Olymel workers test positive for COVID-19 in Red Deer

Two workers at Olymel’s pork processing facility in Red Deer have tested… Continue reading

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. Health officials north of Toronto say 46 cases of COVID-19 have now been linked to a large wedding.THE CANADIAN PRESS AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
46 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding events in Vaughan, Ont., health officials say

46 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding events in Vaughan, Ont., health officials say

A man walks to the lineup for COVID-19 Assessments at Toronto Western Hospital in Toronto on Tuesday October 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Alarm bells ring over COVID-19 and long-term care; Ontario sees slowing virus growth

Alarm bells ring over COVID-19 and long-term care; Ontario sees slowing virus growth

French policemen stand next to Notre Dame church after a knife attack, in Nice, France, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. French anti-terrorism prosecutors are investigating a knife attack at a church in the Mediterranean city of Nice that killed two people and injured several others. (AP Photo/Alexis Gilli)
Tunisian carrying Qur’an fatally stabs 3 in French church

Tunisian carrying Qur’an fatally stabs 3 in French church

Director Deepa Mehta is pictured in a Toronto hotel room as she promotes "Beeba Boys" during the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival on Monday, Sept. 14, 2014. Toronto-based director Deepa Mehta's upcoming drama "Funny Boy" is Canada's selection in the 2021 Oscars race for best international feature film. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Deepa Mehta’s ‘Funny Boy’ chosen as Canada’s contender for international film Oscar

Deepa Mehta’s ‘Funny Boy’ chosen as Canada’s contender for international film Oscar

The skeleton of a dog buried in a crouched or sitting position is shown in this undated handout photo. This dog's grave, believed to be 7,000 years old, was one of several dug up by archeologists in Siberia and became part of a genetic study on the history of humans and dogs. Co-author Robert Losey from the University of Alberta in Edmonton says the study provides new insight into how far back the relationship between dogs and humans goes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - University of Alberta, Dr. Robert Losey
‘They came with dogs:’ Genomes show canines, humans share long history

‘They came with dogs:’ Genomes show canines, humans share long history

This microscope image made available by the National Cancer Institute Center for Cancer Research in 2015 shows human colon cancer cells with the nuclei stained red. Sales of medications to treat cancer have nearly tripled in Canada over the past decade, reaching $3.9 billion last year, a report by a federal agency says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, AP, NCI Center for Cancer Research
Cost for cancer-fighting drugs triples in Canada but still no national drug plan

Cost for cancer-fighting drugs triples in Canada but still no national drug plan

Most Read