Back to News

Under the Northern Lights - March 20, 2024

Good News Items

  • Board Chair Karen Packard thanked Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA Scott Cyr for the invitation to attend the provincial budget address. She also expressed thanks to the Alberta School Boards' Association for organizing an opportunity for board chairs and superintendents to engage with the ministry on the budget.

  • Trustee Lois Phillips thanked the Aurora Middle School Grade 6 band for inviting her to sit in on one of their practices. She was also invited to judge the school's Leprechaun Trap Competition.

  • Trustee Lois Phillips also congratulated J.A. Williams High School on a successful Mardis Gras Week, including a well organized dance.

  • Trustee Blair Norton congratulated J.A Williams High School alumnus Sarah Booth on earning her PhD in special education. Her doctoral thesis focused on an interdisciplinary approach to developing IPPs in the school system.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards thanked the school councils who have welcomed her to their meetings recently and all of the school council member who attended the Board's regional school council meetings and community engagement sessions. 

  • Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager, presented highlights from school's throughout the division focusing on Truth and Reconciliation. The full presentation is available on our website: Good News - Truth and Reconciliation - March 20, 2024.

Transportation Update 

A overall warmer than usual winter and good road conditions helped the student transportation system run smoothly over the winter months, Transportation Director Matt Richter reported to the Board. 

Transportation staff are currently training on new logistics software that will provide some enhancements to the system next year, including communication. 

Bus contractors continue to feel the strain from inflation, including the cost of parts and equipment. There are long wait times for new buses and it is almost impossible to source used buses in North America. Labour also continues to be an issue, with very few spare drivers available. Richter said there are at least three bus contractors considering retiring at the end of the year due to the ongoing issues related to replacing and repairing buses, insurance and labour. 

The division's driving school successfully completed a driver competency program with 11 drivers earlier this winter. The training was well received by participants and other jurisdictions have requested access to the training in the future. S course and Class 2S course training was also completed, including 12 school staff who completed the training so they can drive buses.

Transportation staff have taken on a larger role in helping schools source buses for field trips. The division purchased three white buses to assist schools with transporting students, and transportation staff are working with schools to find contractors for field trips that meet insurance requirements. 

Trustees inquired about how contractors are dealing with the high cost of fuel, particularly in the Lac La Biche region where prices are higher than other communities in the division. Richter noted that there is a fuel subsidy available but it often doesn't reflect the actual costs being paid by local contractors as it is based on an average using prices from different areas of the province. Board Chair Karen Packard said the Board will continue to advocate for the provincial government to address the challenges impacting bus contractors. 

Draft Capital Plan

Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock presented the Board with two potential drafts of an updated Capital Plan for the division. The major difference between the plan is that one includes a replacement school for North Star Elementary School in Cold Lake and the other proposed a Cold Lake South solution that would address needs at North Star, Art Smith Aviation Academy and possibly Cold Lake Junior High. Trustees indicated they preferred the option that included a more comprehensive solution for Cold Lake South. The Board will review a final draft of the plan at a meeting on March 27. 

Board Policy 26 - Inclusive Learning Environments

After reviewing proposed changes to Policy 26 at a caucus meeting in February, the Board approved the amended policy in principle and requested that it be shared with stakeholders for feedback.

Student Trades Fairs

Superintendent Rick Cusson updated the Board on plans for the division to host career fairs for students this spring. 

The Lakeland Student Trades Fair is a partnership between NLPS and other local school boards and will take place April 16 and 17th at the Bonnyville and District Centennial Centre. Students from the Bonnyville and Cold Lake areas in grades 9 to 12 will all have the opportunity to attend. There will be over 50 booths highlighting multiple trades and career opportunities, plus hands-on opportunities to try out some of the trades. The fair will also be open to the public on April 16th from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The division is also partnering with Portage College to host a career fair in Lac La Biche on May 14th for students in grades 9 to 12. Students will be able to explore educational programs and careers with more than 20 different organizations and businesses. 

CASA Classroom

Superintendent Rick Cusson announced that NLPS has partnered with CASA Mental Health and Alberta Education to establish a CASA Classroom in the division. The program will start in September 2024 and will be located at H.E. Bourgoin Middle School in Bonnyville. This will provide families with students in grades 5 to 8 the opportunity to access mental health supports that are currently not available or difficult to access. Andrea Farrell, currently the principal at Art Smith Aviation Academy, has been selected as the designated administrator for the program. 

Curriculum Update

Board Chair Karen Packard reported that she attended a stakeholder engagement meeting on March 12 focused on new curriculum and the new draft of the K to 6 social studies curriculum, along with an opportunity for the public to provide feedback was released shortly after that meeting. 

Several trustees noted concerns with the draft curriculum and that they would be participating in the online feedback opportunity. 

Capital Announcements 2024

Board Chair Karen Packard said the Board was disappointed to learn that the replacement school for Vera M. Welsh Elementary School in Lac La Biche did not advance to the construction phase on the government's list of approved capital projects as part of Budget 2024. 

The project was approved for design funding last year and the division has been working diligently to ensure all of the criteria was met. The target that was set for the work to be completed was April 30th and everything is on track to meet that timeline. The Board will continue advocating for the project to be approved for construction. 

Policy 22 extension

Board Chair Karen Packard identified an issue with Policy 22, which currently states that decisions on funding would be made by the end of March but did not provide a deadline for applications. She asked for the Board to extend the deadline for funding decisions and provide student groups and school councils until March 31 to submit their applications. The Board approved that suggestion. 

Truth and Reconciliation Committee

Committee Chair Lois Phillips thanked Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement Chairman Stan Delorme and the settlement council for allowing the Board to address a recent council meeting. She noted their overwhelming desire is to have a school located on the settlement. They are the only Metis settlement in Alberta that does not have a school. Most children from Buffalo Lake Metis Settlement are bused to Caslan School. A new school for Buffalo Lake is currently the #3 priority on the division's capital plan.

Phillips said she is looking forward to meeting with Kikino Metis Settlement Council next.