Penhold school needs examined

Penhold’s new school may not initially include high school grades. Chinook’s Edge School Division superintendent Kurt Sacher said there may not be enough students to justify opening a high school straight away in September 2014.

Penhold’s new school may not initially include high school grades.

Chinook’s Edge School Division superintendent Kurt Sacher said there may not be enough students to justify opening a high school straight away in September 2014.

Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure approved a new junior-senior high school or a Grade 7 to 12 school when the province rolled out its $550-million infrastructure plan in late May.

Sacher said the departments approved the potential modification of the new school’s grade configuration. Sacher said one option could be opening the school as a Grade 6 to 9 with plans to add grades as the growth dictates.

Sacher said to run a quality high school with diverse programming, there needs to be at least 75 students per grade level.

“If you look at the demographics, we’re looking at typically 30 students in the grade levels that would feed into that high school,” said Sacher.

“There’s also lots of growth in Penhold so it might take care of itself in three years.”

Sacher said right now the division only has preliminary numbers from its existing schools and more research is needed. Schools like Jesse Duncan are approaching 60 students per grade level, which is a good sign the numbers could turn around.

If the new school’s grade configurations vary from the original plan, this may impact the grade configurations at Jesse Duncan, a Grade 4 to Grade 9 school, and Penhold School, a kindergarten to Grade 3 school. The district is speaking with staff to keep them up to speed on the potential changes.

Starting next month, the division will phone hundreds of parents in Penhold and surrounding areas to gauge what they would like to see. The division will also look at census data and a forum is in the works for November.

“If the numbers are there, we are going to go for it,” said Sacher. “If they are not there, the board will make the decision based on the data.”

Likely the board of trustees will decide early next year after looking at all the information. Sacher said the division expects to deliver a report to the board by Christmas.

“We really want to be in touch with our parents and the public,” said Sacher.

The new school will be next to the Multiplex in Penhold.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

— copyright Red Deer Advocate