2020-2021 School Calendar
Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent - System Improvement, presented a revised 2020-2021 School Calendar for the Board to approve.
The draft 2020-2021 School Calendar had been circulated to stakeholders and a total of 47 people provided feedback. Approximately half were parents and half were staff. There were two trends in the comments that were received. The first were positive comments in favour of the calendar and the considerations that went into creating it. The second was concern about the last day of school for students occurring on a Monday.
Driedger noted that when the calendar was initially drafted, the last day of school was based on the anticipated provincial diploma exam schedule. Since then, the diploma exam schedule has been updated. As a result, the calendar was amended to reflect the new diploma exam schedule. This resulted in the elimination of the Family Friday on June 11th, which is now an exam day, and the last day of school being moved to Friday, June 25th. The last day for staff will be Monday, June 28th.
Annual Transportation Report
Matt Richter, Director of Transportation, provided the Board with the Annual Transportation Report and highlighted some of the challenges the division is experiencing in providing transportation for students.
Over the last seven years, transportation funding grants have decreased by $420,000 while ridership has increased by eight per cent. Of the 4,300 students who ride the bus to and/or from school, 17.5% of rural students are unfunded and 32% or urban students are unfunded.
Flybys - vehicles that pass buses when the buses are stopped and red lights are flashing - continue to occur throughout the division on a weekly basis. Richter said an average of three incidents per week are being reported. NLPS is tracking the number of incidents and providing the information to the Student Transportation Association of Alberta, which is compiling data to present to the provincial government.
Highlights from the last year include the introduction of the Ride Safe program, which provides bus safety presentations to students throughout the division. Over 2,300 students participated in the program this year. Transportation also provided Meet the Bus sessions in August for Kindergarten students and other students who were new to taking the bus to school.
In addition, the division became certified by Alberta Transportation as a Driving School and can now offer courses to bus drivers from NLPS as well as other school jurisdictions. Richter explained this will be critical as the July 31, 2020 deadline for bus drivers to have the new MELT course approaches. NLPS will also be providing S-Endorsement courses for Class 2 drivers. This is needed for volunteer drivers, including school staff, who transport students for extracurricular activities. Around 40 staff are expected to complete this training in January.
Richter noted that with the additional training required for drivers making it difficult to recruit new drivers and the federal carbon tax, contractors are expressing concern about whether or not they will be able to continue.
Letter from Bus Contractors
The Board also discussed a letter it had received from bus contractors operating in the Lac La Biche region. The contractors are requesting that the Board consider changing Board Policy 20 - Transportation which currently states that school buses will not operate when the Wind Chill exceeds -45 degrees Celsius or the outside air temperature (without wind chill) exceeds -40 degrees Celsius. The contractors would like it changed to -40 degrees Celsius with wind chill and -35 degrees Celsius without wind chill.
Superintendent Rick Cusson noted that Administrative Procedure 131 - Inclement Weather Disruptions to Transportation and Classroom Schedules had been amended and was scheduled to be sent to stakeholders for feedback shortly. The amendments made provide more flexibility in what factors are used to determine bus cancellations. Bus drivers and contractors will have an opportunity to provide feedback on those changes.
The Board referred Policy 20 to the Transportation Committee for review. It is expected to come back to the Board by the end of this year.
Superintendent Rick Cusson reported that all NLPS schools are now equipped with EpiPens, as per new provincial government legislation that came into effect January 1, 2020. The division will be providing training for staff on how to administer the EpiPens to students if needed.
Three-Year Plan and Annual Education Results Report
Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent - System Improvement, provided the Board with the final draft of the division's 2019-2022 Three-Year Education Plan and 2018-2019 Annual Education Results Report (AERR).
The AERR outlines the progress the division has made in meeting the goals set for it by Alberta Education and in addressing its division priorities, while the Three-Year Education Plan focuses on the strategies the division will be using to address the Alberta Education goals moving forward, as well as the division's two new priorities - mental health and numeracy - that were selected after an extensive stakeholder engagement process last year.
The Board approved the division's updated 2019-2020 budget. This reflects changes made due to decreases in funding and increases in expenses (primarily in insurance premiums) since the Board initially approved the budget in the spring.
More details on the division's 2019-2020 Budget are posted on our Budget page.
Report Card Survey
The division will be sending a Report Card Survey to all parents of middle school students (grades 5-8) next week, to gather feedback on how to make report cards more user friendly for parents, students and staff.