Earlier this morning, representatives from Peace Wapiti Public School Division (PWSD) shared concerns with Education Minister David Eggen during his planned visit to the Grande Prairie area – part of a week-long tour of the province’s school boards.
Included on the agenda were discussions on the impact of delaying proclamation of the Education Act, and stable funding despite the province’s recent deficit announcement. PWSD was also given the opportunity to discuss major funding priorities.
PWSD Superintendent Sheldon Rowe felt the meeting was productive and hopes the NDP government is firmly committed to supporting education, despite the economic downturn.
Dana McIntosh, PWSD’s Board Chair, voiced concerns around the transportation funding inequalities that exist throughout Alberta, adding to PWSD’s rising costs associated with operating the third largest transportation system in the province. Ms. McIntosh asked the Minister for a further funding announcement on the new Kindergarten-Grade 8 school, to be located in Whispering Ridge subdivision. The school was part of a larger announcement made last fall by the former government, and the Board is anxious to move forward with the request for proposals.
“The transportation funding grid should be equitable and provide adequate funding for all school divisions,” says Ms. McIntosh. “When we consider our uniquely large geographical size, the current grid puts PWSD at a disadvantage, while other Boards in our category receive significantly more dollars per student.”
“We are ready to get moving on the new school in Whispering Ridge. Not only will it reduce bus ride times for young students, it will also alleviate some of the pressure felt at Harry Balfour School, an aging facility which saw a significant enrolment increase during the past school year.”
“Due to recent population growth seen in the rural areas surrounding the city of Grande Prairie, an additional K-8 school located southeast of Grande Prairie would enable PWSD to close the existing Harry Balfour School, bringing an end to lengthy bus rides for rural elementary students through the high traffic central core of the city,” adds Ms. McIntosh.
Mr. Rowe and Ms. McIntosh also shared information on the need for a new high school located north of Grande Prairie.
The meeting also addressed the impact of delaying proclamation of the new Education Act. While PWSD received assurance that the province is committed to producing an Act which will accurately reflect the needs of the province, Mr. Rowe and Ms. McIntosh requested clarity on what alternative measures the province will put in place should the delay extend for more than one year.