The Paintearth Community Adult Learning Council did their best to adapt to the challenges of COVID, heard Castor town council at their regular meeting Feb. 28, and the adult learning organization got their student numbers back to pre-pandemic levels within one year.
Paintearth Adult Learning representatives Cindy Heidecker and Radka Bursikova gave town councillors an update on how the organization fared during the last two COVID years.
Literacy coordinator Bursikova gave councillors an introduction to how the organization works, noting that many people come through their doors with learning needs, for example help with English or Math, and staff match them up one on one with a tutor. She went on to explain some of these adults are classified as “fundamental” learners.
Bursikova noted learners who need help with English as a second language (ESL) may have a much easier time adapting to their new home if they’re more comfortable with English or Math.
Other popular classes the organization offers, she explained, include basic computer skills and post-secondary programs among many others.
One program Bursikova wanted to single out is in partnership with ABC Literacy Canada and offers one on one or group learning that is also available for businesses to offer to staff and include topics such as motivation and teamwork. New topics are being added every year.
It’s not just employment skills that are available through the organization, she pointed out. The organization offers a soapmaking class right now.
Family courses are also important and popular Bursikova noted, adding that classes for infants aged birth to six years are popular because they include activities such as singing, reading, crafts and social time for both kids and parents. The Building Blocks program is offered especially for adults and offers help with parenting.
General manager Heidecker stated Paintearth Adult Learning has a few locations so it’s easier for students to find help; locations include the old library in Castor and 5002 Royal Street in Coronation, plus one day a week in the Battle River Innovation Centre (BRIC) office in Castor.
Heidecker noted in 2018-19 the organization offered 47 courses and recorded a minimum of 220 students. However, 2020 was a different story. The COVID pandemic affected the organization greatly, as courses offered, student numbers and post-secondary programs all dropped.
The organization adapted, though, and Heidecker noted that in 2021 social distancing and other measures were used to get back up to a minimum of 220 students, even during the pandemic.
Heidecker passed along student success stories to councillors and noted the organization helps a diverse group of residents and it’s rewarding to see students with more confidence and hear how more learning opened up new doors to student.
The current year does pose some challenges though, as Heidecker stated some provincial government changes mean the post-secondary offerings are a bit different.
She strongly encouraged town councillors to become Paintearth Community Adult Leaning champions, which they could do simply by encouraging people to drop by or check out the organization online and see what’s offered.
Bursikova added that newcomers to Canada can sometimes be a bit hesitant to sign up for programs.
Mayor Richard Elhard asked how the organization handles their BRIC accommodations, to which Heidecker responded they get office space there for free and participate in cross-promotion.
Coun. Kevin McDougall stated he felt the organization was doing a great job getting student levels back to normal during the pandemic.
Heidecker closed her presentation by stating the adult learning organization is always open to suggestions and new ideas and encouraged councillors to call anytime.
Stu Salkeld, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Correction: [March 8, 4 p.m.] Paintearth Adult Learning does not offer Clearview School Division outreach programming. Gus Wetter and Coronation School coordinate outreach programming in Castor and Coronation. Their target is adults that are 18+ years old. And provide educational opportunities for students when they no longer qualify for Alberta Education learning options.