Kristie Foster, chair of the Allan Johnstone School Parent Council attended the Hardisty town council meeting with an update on the quality education the students receive, programs funded by parent council, low enrolment and to discuss ways to attract young families to Hardisty.
Foster pointed out that the population of the Hardisty school may be lower than some communities, but the smaller classrooms give the teachers more chance to have one-on-one sessions with the students which often leads to higher comprehension levels and test scores.
“Our provincial achievement scores are consistently above the provincial average which is a testament to our amazing teachers,” Foster informed council.
The question the Parent Council is asking is why parents are sending their children to neighbouring schools. After consultation with parents they learned the main reason is because of low enrollment in the school, especially in the junior high. The children want a larger peer group, so they search out a school that provides that. Allan Johnstone School may have a low enrollment, but they offer the same programs larger schools do and the parent council tries hard to fill in any gaps as they are very determined to open as many doors to the kids interests as they can.
The Parent Council helps pay for field trips, ensure teachers have the supplies and software they need for learning projects, support the community garden program which maintains a garden near the school and teaches the elementary kids about where their food comes from and how it grows.
They have introduced a Robotics Program, Archery Program, started the Roots for Empathy Program for all grade levels, implemented a health program that uses a Simulation Baby doll for the junior High students, and this year they funded a music program so there could be instruments for the students to enjoy. Lowering taxes for families and young people that are moving in, changing bylaws and zoning to accommodate housing needs were just a couple of the ways that were discussed to attract young families to move to Hardisty.
More young families will potentially mean more children attending the school and the goal is to keep the enrollment levels at a higher level in the school.
Mayor Doug Irving met with the Flagstaff Regional Housing group and informed council that the Bethany Group has put in a request to Alberta Senior Housing for $750,000 to help start on the renovation of the Hardisty Manor. The plan is to reduce the number of units through room conversions and renovations that will result in a mix use site for seniors. Some rooms may be for independent living and others may be more of a lodge type setting where one meal a day could be provided and housekeeping services. A meeting room for the two doctors to visit the residents will also be considered.
Coun. Wurz brought up the topic of Tiny Homes and questioned the possibility of setting aside an area to accommodate this type of development. Tiny Homes are an affordable housing option for people who want to downsize or for people who are just starting out in the housing market. They are generally between 100 to 400 square feet. Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Sandy Otto stated that Big Valley has designated an area for tiny homes and perhaps they should explore that and see how popular that has been. Council is going to put some more thought in to the idea of Tiny Homes and come back to the next council meeting with more ideas. Subdividing smaller lots Hardisty already has was mentioned as an option.