In a virtual meeting between members of the Prairie Land Regional Division (PLRD) and school trustees, a few key items were discussed amid a rampant COVID-19 pandemic within the province.
Although the virus has not reached east central Alberta aside from Three Hills and Stettler areas, PLRD was proud of its staff for staying ahead of the curve, adapting to the present situation as swiftly and calmly as possible for students as well as IT personnel for their help as well.
Effective Mon. March 16, 2020 schools across Prairie Land were closed to students indefinitely.
On Tues. March 17 teaching and learning continued across the division by online methods through Google Classroom, Google Meet and Hangouts.
Schools were open for a period of time for parents to gather items students needed.
The division has sent out information memos to all staff and parents as information is released by the government.
In an effort to enrich the learning environment while recognizing the need for social distancing, the staff of Prairie Land will be providing ‘Enrichment Afternoons’ for all students and parents from ECS to Grade 6.
Staff are holding real-time, interactive, online complementary 20 minute classes from Monday to Friday and will consist of everything from mathematics, reading, fitness, art and mental health activities.
The courses will change on a weekly basis and there is no limit as to how many a parent and child would like to join; all that is needed is a device with a camera and access to the internet.
For those without, PLRD has been able to supply families with temporary internet hubs and other technology to allow for coursework to resume while students are stuck at home.
This comes from the influx of money that would originally be spent on gas for buses but since they are parked it has allowed the division some leeway for other priorities.
Board working session
In preparation for a meeting with MLA Nate Horner on Tues. April 7, trustees and PLRD staff came up with a few key points they wished to ask him about as well as provide pertinent information for his own knowledge.
First was how the new funding formula is going to affect PLRD and rural school budgets; second was transportation.
Insurance and what they are considering doing as future moves was another.
They plan to give a general summary from the community engagement meetings that took place in February as to what the general feeling of what people are thinking about.
They also plan to update him on the division’s response to COVID-19 and what teachers are
“I think Prairie Land set a really high bar and he can be aware of it so that he can share that with others about how this division coped in such an exemplary manner. It’s just phenomenal,” said Trustee Barry Davis.
Three-year capital plan
The Board passed a motion to approve the 2020-2023 Three-year Capital Plan and concurrently the most pressing structural needs throughout the division within their facilities.
The Youngstown School building envelope upgrade is priority one.
A building envelope is a physical separator between the conditioned and unconditioned environment of a building including the resistance to air, water, heat, light, and noise transfer.
The Altario School building envelope upgrade has been recognized as the second priority, and the J.C. Charyk Hanna School roofing replacement (was not included in the recent school modernization project) is priority three.
The roofing project was looked into as trustees at the last board meeting were curious to know if a pitched roof would be cheaper and more effective rather than a flat roof where water can settle and possibly create more damage.
Superintendent McKeag explained that the cost was relatively the same when it comes to applying for the dollar amount.
The Three-year Capital Plan was submitted to Alberta Infrastructure by April 1, 2020.
Around the division
As for the implementation of a diploma exam for Grade 12 students, the exams have been cancelled and will take the student’s average mark in the class instead.
This will happen unless a student feels they would like to take the exam.
“With that, there are some students in a situation that can still request if they want to write that exam because there are kids that do better on the exam than the actual course work itself so that is available to them if they want,” said superintendent Cam McKeage.
All they need to do is make an application to their principal which will be sent to Alberta Education for approval and a copy of the exam.
Another problem that arose surrounded a possible disadvantage to these Grade 12s if they had taken four exams this semester compared to less in the first.
The school division has questioned Alberta Education on this matter but is waiting on an answer regarding this.
In other news, a board of directors has been established for the new baseball academy in Consort and Veteran.
The grand opening that was scheduled for April 9 has been postponed to a later date.
Berry Creek teacher nominated
Jr. High school teacher Shae Fedorak of Berry Creek Community School in Cessford has been nominated for the Edwin Parr Teacher Award with the Alberta School Boards Association.
This award is specifically geared towards identifying ‘exceptional’ first-year teachers and their drive towards delivering solid education to youth.
Fedorak teaches physical education as well as other classes like English in the junior high age group and some lower grades.
“She is a very worthy candidate for this award,” said McKeage.
“She is just a really great young teacher, one that we want to hold on to and the beauty that she wants to stay at Berry Creek as well.
“She enjoys the school, she enjoys staff, community and so I think she is a very worthy nominee.”
Delia School rebuild
Steve Neilsen updated the board of trustees on the Delia School rebuild, explaining that the general contractor bids have been rated and their top five have been chosen.
Neilsen was happy to report that four out of the five were ranked highly by the local groups.
Alberta Infrastructure has allowed extra time for these contractors to come up with new timelines due to COVID-19 as measured timelines are an important factor in determining who will receive the contract.
“Everyone has to do it in a way that is safe for their workers,” said Neilsen.
Once all have submitted this adjusted information, the lowest price of the five bids will win.