Altario School pioneering PLRD excellence program

Charlee Bouchard, 6, of Compeer, Alta. gives one of the auctioned steers a scratch during the Altario Agricultural School of Excellence opening. ECA Review/T.Huxley

Prairie Land Regional School Division (PRLD) has created a new initiative to attract families to their region in East Central Alberta.

Schools of Excellence are schools with a specific category of learning they specialize in.

Altario School, located less than ten minutes from the Alberta- Saskatchewan border off of Highway 12, is the first to introduce this hyper-focused program with agriculture.

On Fri. June 21, the community gathered behind the school to witness the new barn and panelling.

Students also had current projects displayed in the gym and certain hallways to give parents and community members a sense of what students are engaging in.

The highlight of the evening was the calf auction where it was auctioned off nine times, racking up a total profit of $39,585.

It weighed 1450 pounds and sold for $27.30 per pound.

Donations of finances, product, and time were also received, showing the giant overall support from the tiny hamlet of Altario and surrounding area.

Visitors chat inside of new facility. ECA Review/T.Huxley

The barn itself is 1,296 square feet with seven varying sized pens for both small and large animals.

Although they are ready to be occupied, the school is still sorting out what livestock they will purchase.

A community garden is also on site since its construction three years ago.

“We are pumped,” began Altario School principal Kevin Van Lagen. “The truth is some years ago the question was ‘Can this school survive?’ and people are not asking that question anymore. Now it’s ‘How can we be like that school?’.”

The idea of a school of excellence began five years ago around the PRLD board of trustees table and then spiralled from there.

This year, the students were involved with feeding the two beef projects that were auctioned off at the opening.

An exciting feature to the new facility is the opportunity to share the experience with students outside of the division, targeted more specifically at urban students.

Altario School student Noah Van Lagen, left, scoops ice cream into a container as part of his project on the popular desert in the school gym while Darren Ference helps him. ECA Review/T.Huxley

“One day we will focus on cattle, the other day we will focus on some crops. They will work in the barn and our students will help teach as a leadership opportunity and to share their way of life up here,” said Van Lagen.

They started with Grade 4 to Grade 12 classes feeding the steers they had during this current school year until they were broke and calm enough for the younger classes to get involved.

A weekly rotation involving a teacher and four students roughly takes 20 minutes to finish feeding.

The board of trustees purchased the barn which was installed in mid May.

“It’s part of the superintendent’s vision to have schools of excellence throughout the division so we are leading the way on that. Hopefully, other schools in the division do similar things,” said Van Lagen.

Consort is looking at leading a baseball program while Hanna continues to pursue a firefighter training program.

Drumheller-Stettler MLA Nate Horner shone a light on the situation in the legislature which has since been viewed on social media through video 54,000 times.

“I had a guy call me from Ontario saying ‘Where the heck is Altario and what are you guys doing?’ So, of course, we are proud and for our students for their school to be on the map is just incredible,” said Van Lagen.


Terri Huxley

ECA Review

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ECA Review