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Under the Northern Lights - May 29, 2024

Good News Items

  • Board Chair Karen Packard congratulated the Art Smith Aviation Academy School Council on receiving the Alberta School Councils' Association Award of Merit. The school councils was recognized for its contributions to the school as well as it work to raise the profile of the council and increase parent involvement.

  • Board Chair Karen Packard thanked the Alberta School Boards' Association Zone 2/3 for hosting an MLA engagement session, which provided the Board with the opportunity to connect with all three local MLA's as well as cabinet ministers and the Premier.

  • Board Chair Karen Packard congratulated the Bonnyville Friendship Centre on receiving a Friends of Education Award from the Alberta School Boards' Association. The Friendship Centre was recognized for the outstanding supports and programming provided to students in the Bonnyville area.

  • Trustee Roy Ripkens congratulated the students and staff at Bonnyville Centralized High School on their recent production of The Addams Family. This was the first theatrical performance at the school since it underwent a modernization. Ripkens said it was nice to see the audience back at BCHS.

  • Trustee Ron Young thanked the Alberta School Boards' Association Zone 2/3 for hosting a wonderful banquet recognizing outstanding first year teachers who were nominated for the Edwin Parr Teacher Award. NLPS nominee Danik Becotte was one of the Zone 2/3 nominees honoured at the banquet.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards thanked Ardmore School for the opportunity to flip burgers and meet students and parents at the school's recent open house. 

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards congratulated Grade 6 students from H.E. Bourgoin School on publishing a book with the help of Sigmund Brouwer. The school held a book launch and open house earlier this month.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards congratulated Bonnyville Centralized High School on a successful barbecue fundraiser that resulted in a $1,500 donation to the 2nd Chance Trail Ride. 

  • Trustee Blair Norton commended the organizers of the recent Career Fair in Lac La Biche, which was a partnership between NLPS and Portage College. He appreciated the format that provided students with the opportunity to participate in breakout sessions in addition to speaking to local employers from throughout the region.
  • Trustee Garry Kissel complimented Glendon School's Grade 4 students on the plays they wrote and performed about Alberta history and social studies.

  • Board Chair Karen Packard thanked the students in grades 6-12 who served on this year's Student Advisory Council to the Board. The council met earlier this month to review the division's new priorities, which were chosen after consultation with stakeholder groups, including the students.

  • Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager, presented Good News items from schools throughout the division. The full presentation is available on the NLPS website: Good News - May 29, 2024.

Enhanced Programming Report

Karen Draycott, Director of Learning - Grades 7-12 Instructional Support, provided some highlights from the 2023-2024 Enhanced Programming Report. Enhanced Programming in NLPS includes the Registered Apprenticeship Program, work experience, dual credit programs, the division's Mobile Trades Lab, career fairs, and programming provided through the division's partnership with the Canadian Rockies Outdoor Learning Centre.

Draycott noted the division has strong partnerships with the five post-secondary institutions located in the region. NLPS students currently have access to over 30 dual credit/university transfer courses. She said NLPS continues to look for ways to expand dual credit opportunities and match what is available to what students are interested in. NLPS is launching a new dual credit program with Portage College for Summer School 2024 called Introduction to the Trades. Students will have the opportunity to learn about four different trades, with hands-on learning at the Portage College labs in Lac La Biche. 

Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent, noted sustainability is an issue. While divisions can receive startup grants to establish new courses, they do not receive additional funding to cover the ongoing costs associated with delivering some of the programs such as tuition and transportation for students.

The division hosted two career fairs for high school students this year. One at the Centennial Centre in Bonnyville in partnership with Lakeland Catholic School Division and one in Lac La Biche in partnership with Portage College. Over 1,000 students attend the one in Bonnyville and over 300 attended the one in Lac La Biche. Draycott received positive feedback about both from students, staff, vendors and parents. Employers and post-secondary representatives said they were impressed by the students' questions and were pleased with the great conversations they had with students.

Eighty-three students from Ardmore School and Cold Lake Junior High also attended Skills Canada Try a Trade in Edmonton this year. Several schools are also using Try a Trade kits in their schools and incorporating classrooms presentations to provide enhanced learning experiences for students.

Participation in the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP) is increasing and potential partnerships are being explored to expand on this opportunity for students to pursue apprenticeship training while earning credits toward high school graduation at the same time. 

The division's Mobile Trades Lab was in Cold Lake this year providing programming to students at Cold Lake Junior High from September to March and then at Art Smith Aviation Academy for the remainder of the year. Students from Learning Together Anywhere School, the division's online school, were also able to access programming in the lab. The lab will be in the Bonnyville area next year at H.E. Bourgoin School, Ardmore School and Glendon School.

Over 150 NLPS high school students participated in Water Experience 15, Water Experience 25, Winter Travel 15 and Winter Travel 25 at the Canadian Rockies Outdoor Learning Centre. 

Locally Developed Courses

The Board approved the renewal of several Locally Developed Courses. Close to 600 students were enrolled in locally developed courses throughout the division, including courses such as Content Literacy 15, Forensic Studies 25 and 35, and Military Studies 15 and 25.

Education Plan

Trustees approved the division's Education Plan which includes new priorities based on stakeholder consultations completed earlier this year. The two priorities identified by the Board are increasing student achievement, and continuing to support the improvement of the mental well-being of students. Superintendent Rick Cusson explained that within the student achievement priority, there are two areas the division will be focusing on. In Kindergarten to Grade 6, the focus will be on improving foundational skills in literacy and numeracy. In grades 7-12 the focus will be on enhancing learning pathways to success. 

The division will also continue to address the outcomes set by Alberta Education. Those are: Alberta's students are successful; First Nations, Metis and Inuit students are successful; Alverta's students have access to a variety of learning opportunities to enhance competitiveness in the modern economy; and Alberta's K-12 education and workforce are well-managed.

Cusson noted that the strategies in the plan will be enhanced and refined as further consultation is done with staff about how to address the priorities. Updates will also need to be done in some areas as data is still being collected for the current school year. 

The NLPS 2024-2027 Education Plan is available on the division's website.

2024-2025 Budget

The Board approved the 2024-2025 budget which projects a $4.7 million deficit. Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock explained that in order to maintain the current level of service the division has established, including small class sizes and classroom supports for students, the division will need draw from its reserves. While the division is in a financial position to that in 2024-2025, if revenues do not increase, cuts will need to be made in future years, as the division's reserves will be close to minimum requirements.

Revenues are expected to be just over $94 million, with the majority ($82 million) coming from the provincial government, and just over $8 million coming from the federal government. Elock noted that the budget is enrolment driven, with increases in enrolment resulting in increases in both revenues and expenses.

The budget projects just over $98 million in expenses, with 70% of that allocated to staffing. Elock noted that while expenses in some areas have increased to address specific initiatives, such as safety-focused software licensing and recruitment incentives, inflation also continues to impact expenses.

With the 2023-2024 year still underway, and the division expected to have a deficit of just over $2 million, operating reserves are expected to fall to just over $5 million. By the end of 2024-2025, if the division achieves its projected $4.7 million deficit, that will fall to $2.8 million. Half of that is school-generated funds, which is money that has been fundraised for specific initiatives at schools, leaving the division with $1.4 million it can access, as well as $25,000 in unrestricted reserves. NLPS is required to maintain a minimum balance of $1 million in unrestricted and operating reserves.

Policy 22

The Board approved amendments to Policy 22 and also approved two applications submitted by groups from North Star Elementary School and Bonnyville Centralized High School. Both groups will be using the finding to purchase 3-D printers. BCHS was approved for $5,000 and North Star was approved for $4,876.

Ecole Plamondon Update

The Board approved an exception to its tendering requirements for repairs to Plamondon School due to the recent flooding that occurred there. Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock explained that single sourcing two aspects of the restoration work - flooring and drywall painting, was needed to meet the timeline of having staff and students return to the school for the start of the 2024-2025 school year. Tendering the project would cause the project to extend beyond that timeframe and would result in additional costs to the division to secure space for classes and transport students. 

The estimate for repairs is $2.5 million. Elock noted they are still working through the details of all of the work that needs to be done as well as the costing. 

Regional School Council Meetings

The Board will be making some adjustments to its meetings with school councils next year. For the last several years the Board has hosted regional school council meetings, bringing together school councils in each region with the Board once a year, usually in February. Due to feedback received from school council members, the Board will be inviting school councils from throughout the division to meet together in November.