It was back to school — a new old school — Monday for students from the Smallboy Camp.
Approximately 25 students from the camp northwest of Nordegg on the Forestry Trunk Road started their school year in Nordegg at the Smallboy Outreach School, which is being operated on a pilot basis by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools in 2013-14.
Two teachers and two educational assistants will be working with the students in the town’s public works building, where kindergarten to Grade 7 will be in a traditional classroom setting and students in higher grades will receive instruction through the division’s St. Gabriel Cyber School with classroom support.
The division ran a similar pilot project two years ago.
“A group of students (from the Smallboy Camp) approached us two years ago to meet their educational needs. Unfortunately, Alberta Education couldn’t sustain the funding for that project,” said division superintendent Paul Mason.
“Late last year, a proposal was submitted to reignite this initiative and in early August Alberta Education informed us that they would be able to provide funding for this initiative. It’s a collaborative effort between the students and parents from the Smallboy Camp, Alberta Education and ourselves.”
Edmonton Catholic School District has run the Mountain Cree Camp School near Robb, northwest of Nordegg, since 2009.
Students from the camp have also attended the Ta-Otha Community School on the Big Horn First Nation and school in Rocky Mountain House over the last few years.
The Smallboy Camp was formed in 1968 by a longtime chief of the Ermineskin band who, along with a group of about 140 supports, set up camp on the Kootenay Plains west of Nordegg to get away from the temptations of alcohol and drugs, and the influences of white society.
A few years later, the camp was moved to its present site near Robb.
Mason said the students will spend about 90 minutes on the bus each way to and from the school. He said Alberta Education will evaluate the pilot project. He expects they will make a decision in the spring on whether to continue funding.
In other division news from the first fall board meeting:
• A consultant will be hired to work with a team to formulate a design for what the division hopes will be a new high school project announced in the fall.
A new high school in Red Deer is the division’s No. 1 capital project and, earlier this year, it even announced a name for a future facility — St. Joseph High School — despite the province not having yet committed to building any such school.
Mason expects the province will announce a new set of school construction projects in the fall, with a new Catholic high school on the list. The division is just trying to show some foresight, said Mason, and “looking to develop areas where students can collaborate together.”
“We thought it’d be prudent to form this committee to get the thoughts of local stakeholders, parents, teachers, students and administrators so that we could have contributions at the table when it comes to the design of this facility,” he said.
Under the province’s new P-3 method for school construction, school build projects are bundled together to be done by a single contractor, with a degree of uniformity to the schools achieved through standardized designs. But Mason said he believes there will be more possibility for input into the design of a new high school for the city.
• Mason said preliminary estimates for the 2013-14 school year show division enrolment up by about five per cent over the year prior, with a number of schools dealing with space issues due to high enrolment.
A new elementary school in Clearview Ridge is set to open in the division next year with room for as many as 500 students.