Back to News

Under the Northern Lights - February 9, 2022

Trustee and Admin Information Items

  • Trustee Roy Ripkens provided condolences to the family and friends of Larry Poulter, former principal of the Youth Assessment Centre in Lac La Biche. Coulter worked for Northern Lights for nearly 30 years and was dedicated to students who were experiencing challenging circumstances.

  • Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager, presented Good News items from schools throughout the division. The full presentation is available on our website: Good News - February 9, 2022.

  • Board Chair Karen Packard congratulated the Iron River School Parent Advisory Council on meeting their playground fundraising goal. The Board will be sending a letter to the MD of Bonnyville thanking them for their substantial financial contribution to the project.


Cold Lake Middle School Request for Name Change

CLMS Principal Chan Cusson and Grade 7 teacher Lyndsay Geddes introduced two student leaders, Neveigh Forester from Nelson Heights Middle School and Tiana Janzen from Cold Lake Middle School, who have been helping to engage students at both schools about the changes being made to the school's configuration. In September 2023, Cold Lake Middle School will become a grade 7-9 school that all students in Cold Lake will attend. It will bring together students from Nelson Heights, Cold Lake Middle and Art Smith Aviation Academy.

Students have been discussing a number of things related to the change in configuration. One of the suggestions students had was to change the name of the school to reflect the transition to a 7-9 school. Students logged in to an engagement site set up by NLPS and brainstormed a new name for the school. A total of 181 suggestions were made. Those names were shortlisted to four options for students to vote on. The top vote-getter was Cold Lake Junior High.

The student leaders requested that the Board consider changing the name of the school. Under Administrative Procedure 546, this requires a motion by the Board and a public consultation with the community. The Board was impressed by the students' presentation and committed to considering the request at a future board meeting.

Superintendent Rick Cusson also commended the division's administrators and staff in Cold Lake for the tremendous effort they are making to ensure that the configuration changes, the majority of which are taking place in September, go smoothly. Staff are working hard to ensure that students and staff are prepared to transition between schools and to ensure that all sites will have the resources and supplies they need for the students they will be serving in September.


Quarterly Budget Report

Paula Elock, Secretary-Treasurer, presented the Board with the Quarterly Budget Report from the first quarter of the 2021-2022 school year (Sept. 1 - Nov. 30). Elock noted revenues collected in the first quarter were at 24.9% of what was budgeted for the year and expenses were at 25.6%. 

Approximately 93% of the division's revenues come from Alberta Education. Those revenues are $1.4 million lower than what was received in the first quarter of 2020-2021. This is largely due to the 'Back to School Safely' grant that was received last year to address the impacts of COVID-19. That grant was not provided for 2021-2022.

Approximately 73% of the division's expenditures relate directly to the classroom. The total amounts spent on Pre K-12 is down four per cent, or $634,000, from the first quarter of the previous year. this is due primarily to a decrease in enrolment. - certificated staff spending has decreased - this year we right sized our staffing to enrolment so were anticipating a reduction in staffing 

Elock said the division is on target to meet its projected deficit of $1.187 million. 

Elock also reviewed the changes that were made in the fall budget compared to the original budget approved by the Board last spring. The spring budget included costs for COVID for four months. This was increased by $500,000 to cover additional sub costs due to staff absences. Additionally, the fall budget update includes an enrolment adjustment based on the division not meeting its enrolment projections. This is anticipated to be $1 - $1.2 million. 

Trustees had several questions about areas that may need to be addressed in next year's budget, including insurance costs and transportation. Superintendent Rick Cusson advised that the provincial budget will provide information on where funding my be reduced or increased for next year. Once that announcement has been made, the Board will need to determine if it needs to advocate for funding for certain areas such as transportation, learning loss, maintaining meal programs, or student mental health resources. 


COVID Update

Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent, provided the Board with an update on COVID. Over the last three weeks, a total of five classes of elementary school students were shifted to online learning for between 3 and 5 instructional days. All have now returned to in-person classes. Driedger noted that attendance and participation in learning increased when classes shifted online. He also noted that the timing of exam week for high school students likely reduced the number of shifts to online learning as those schools were better able to deal with staff absences because fewer students were at school that week. 

Since the last board meeting, schools have dealt with the highest number of reported cases they have experienced during the pandemic. Driedger commended staff for their flexibility and willingness to work as a team to ensure programming could continue and student needs were met.

Over the last week staff absences have improved and the demand for substitute teachers and educational assistants has gone down. There are still some hot spots in the division, but the situation is improving, he said. The division is now starting to see a reduction in staff absences and less of a demand for substitute teachers and educational assistants.

On Tuesday night, the Government of Alberta announced a three-phase re-opening plan which includes significant changes to the current guidelines that are in place for schools. Alberta Education is in the process of updating its guidance document. Once the division has been provided with the document, more details on what those changes are will be shared with the Board, staff, students and parents. 


Regional School Council Meetings

The Board met with representatives from school councils in Lac La Biche on February 1 and representatives from Bonnyville school councils on February 8. These meetings are held annually with school councils in each region of the division. Board members appreciated the opportunity to meet school councils and learn about the many ways parents have been supporting schools.


2022-2023 School Calendar

Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent, provided the Board with a revised 2022-2023 with changes that reflected the feedback received during this year's calendar consultation. Over 300 people viewed the calendar consultation page on the Engage NLPS website and 99 comments were made in the discussion forums.

Driedger noted some definite trends in the comments, including 57 comments related to shifting the Christmas break closer to Christmas, as well as the number and placement of Family Fridays at various points in the calendar. All of the suggestions were looked at and considered, but some could not be made due to constraints in the calendar. For instance, Driedger noted there were requests for a Family Friday in January, however, there is a provincial diploma exam scheduled to take place on every Friday that month.

In the end, three changes were made to the draft that was originally presented to the Board and stakeholders. Christmas break has been shifted a full week and will now run from Dec. 26 to Jan. 6, with students and staff returning to school on Monday, January 9. To give families a little more time for travel, the no school day that was originally scheduled for Jan. 2 was moved to Dec. 23, and will now be a Family Friday. 

The third change does not affect students, but will affect staff. Nov. 25 was originally set as a professional development day for staff, with Dec. 9 as a day off for staff in lieu of parent teacher interviews. Those days have now been swapped so the in lieu day is now Nov. 25 and the staff professional development day is Dec. 9. 

The final draft of the calendar has the same number of operational days (192) and instructional days (178) as the previous draft and the 2021-2022 school calendar.

The Board approved the amended calendar and Board Chair Karen Packard thanked all of the staff and parents who provided feedback.

The calendar has been shared on our website: 2022-2023 School Calendar