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Under the Northern Lights - January 17, 2024

Good News Items

  • Trustees commended students, staff and volunteers for the hard work put in to create memorable Christmas concerts this year. Many trustees were able to attend concerts and heard positive feedback from parents and the community about the high quality of the performances.

  • Board Chair Karen Packard congratulated Cold Lake Junior High students and staff on their production of No Body to Murder and their inaugural science fair.
  • Trustee Debra Lozinski congratulated J.A. Williams High School students and staff on their production of Clue which she described as exceptional.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards thanked the school councils in the Bonnyville region for the opportunity to attend their meetings and connect with them in person. 

  • Trustee Lois Phillips reported that excitement for a new school in Lac La Biche is growing and parents are making plans to fundraise for playground equipment.

  • Trustee Garry Kissel congratulated Glendon School on a successful early bird basketball tournament.
  • Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager, shared Good News from schools throughout the division. The full presentation is available on our website: Good News - January 17, 2024.

Inclusive Education Accountability Report

Larissa Langevin, Director of Instruction - Inclusive Education, reviewed the Inclusive Education Accountability Report with the Board. 

Almost a third of NLPS students now have an IPP (Individualized Program Plan) or ISP (Individualized Support Plan). There has been an increase in the number of students that meet the requirements for a severe disability coding, while the number with mild/moderate coding remains at a similar level to last year. Langevin explained that part of the reason for the overall increase is due to the number of assessments the division was able to have completed last year thanks to the Alberta Education Specialized Assessment Grant. This included psychological, speech language, occupational therapy, audiology and vision assessments. 

NLPS is focused on building capacity and developing onboarding and training for educational assistants. Through the Classroom Complexity Grant is launching a Mission Possible EA Training Program that will provide EA's with five hours of training. The division has also partnered with an inclusion consultant who is working directly with five schools and may also provide virtual consultations for other sites. 

The division is also participating in the Educational Assistant Internship Pilot Program, which will provide 15 EA's with an opportunity to take part in training and be part of a community of practice. 

Transportation Update

Matt Richter, Director of Transportation, reviewed the annual Transportation Accountability Report with the Board.

While Alberta Education had provided a funding profile in the spring that indicated a $1.1 million increase in funding for 2023-2024, when the division submitted its data for grant funding in November, it showed an increase of just $500,000. The Board and Administration will be reaching out to other school divisions to see if they are experiencing the same issue.

Richter noted that due to the changes in walk limits, 4,300 students are now receiving transportation services on a total of 91 routes serviced by 20 contractors and 9 division bus drivers. The longest ride time in the division is 114 minutes. 

There is a still a shortage of bus drivers, but Richter said there has been a slight improvement in retention and finding spare drivers, so the number of days that routes have been unavailable have decreased. 

Richter noted that flybys continue to be an issue throughout the division, with an average occurrence of three per week. Currently 20% of buses have cameras that assist with enforcement efforts in these instances. 

Another issue that may potentially impact bus operations has been the increasing cost of replacing school buses. Richter noted that contractors have been holding off on purchasing new buses due to cost increases and scarcity. As buses come to end of life or contractors retire, Richter noted it will become more difficult to find people willing to invest in new buses, when the funding provided doesn't cover those costs. Time is also a factor as the current estimates to receive a new bus are 9 to 12 months, but sometimes stretch to 18 months. 

2023 Friends of Education 

The Board presented two 2023 Friends of Education Awards.

The Dragonfly Centre was recognized for the educational programming it provides to students throughout NLPS as well as the support it provides to staff.

Inter Pipeline was recognized for the support it provides to Iron River School's reading and physical education programs, as well as Ardmore School's annual Duck Race. 

News Release: The Dragonfly Centre receives 2023 Friends of Education Award

News Release: Inter Pipeline receives 2023 Friends of Education Award

Policy 28 - Student Code of Conduct 

The Board reviewed and approved proposed amendments to Policy 28 - Student Code of Conduct. The updated policy will be posted on the NLPS website and shared with stakeholders.

Terms of Employment Approval

The Board approved an updated Terms of Employment for the division's support staff. The new agreement will come into effect on February 1, 2024. 

Ratification of the ATA Local #15 Agreement

The Board ratified the agreement negotiated with the ATA Local #15.

2024-2025 Draft Calendar

Jeannine Ellis, Director of Learning - People Services, presented the Board with a draft 2024-2025 for consideration. The draft calendar was based on feedback from the Board as well as previous feedback received from stakeholders. It was developed by a calendar committee that included the ATA Local #15 President, a teacher, two school administrators and members of the division's People Services Department. The parameters the committee considered were the impact inclement weather has had on recent calendars, the impacts on student achievement, student mental health and wellness, and the pace of the calendar. As a result, there are some significant changes compared to past calendars.

The draft 2024-2025 calendar proposed an increase in instructional days from 178 to 180, resulting in an increase in total operational days from 192 to 194. Ellis noted that the Guide to Education requires 950 hours of instructional time for grades 1-9 and the previous calendars had 958, making it difficult to adjust for days missed due to inclement weather. The additional instructional days would increase the hours to 969, providing more flexibility. In Grades 10-12 the required hours of instruction are 1,000 and the draft calendar would provide 1,020 (up from 1,008 in previous calendars).

The draft calendar includes a reduction in the number of organizational days for staff prior to the start of the school year from four to three. One of these days had been designated as a professional development day and feedback indicated that it would be more effective to deliver that PD on a different day. 

School would start on August 29th, providing staff and students with two days together prior to the Labour Day long weekend. Ellis noted that starting before Labour Day created balanced semesters, provided a four-day long weekend for families at Thanksgiving and also accommodated a Family Friday in March. 

The end of semester one now aligns with provincial diplomas days to eliminate instructional days for high school students following the last day of PDE's. The end of semester one will be Jan. 28th and semester two will start on the 29th.

The draft calendar also proposes a spring break at the end of March, instead of a break that aligns with Easter. Students and staff will still get a four-day long weekend at Easter.

The Board approved the draft calendar in principle and it will be shared with stakeholders to provide feedback before coming back to the Board.

Strategic Plan Consultation Dates

Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent, presented the Board with a draft schedule for community consultations to gather input and help identify division priorities for the Three-Year Education Plan.

The schedule will be shared with stakeholders once the locations have been confirmed. 

Board Policy 27 - Recognition of Staff

The Board reviewed proposed changes to Board Policy 27 - Recognition of Staff. The updated policy was approved in principle and will be shared with staff to collect feedback prior to coming back to the Board.