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Under the Northern Lights - November 10, 2021

Good News Items

  • Trustee Debra Lozinski highlighted Ignite 2021, which brought all staff together virtually for a day of professional development and collaboration on Nov. 1. Trustees delivered lunches to schools and she appreciated the opportunity to visit with staff.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards attended the H.E. Bourgoin Middle School parent council meeting and commented that it was nice to connect with everyone in her new role.

  • Dallin Schmidt, Communications Assistant, presented the Board with Good News from schools throughout the division. The full presentation is available on our website: Good News - November 10, 2021


Facilities Report

Leah Rout, Director of Facilities, provided the Board with an overview of the work the department has done and has planned in the division's 27 schools. 

This year's budget reflects an increase in custodial costs due to meet COVID-19 cleaning requirements. It also included a decrease in insurance costs due to the division changing from ASBIE to ARMIC. The combined cost of insurance and cleaning staff (custodians and daytime sanitizers) makes up 46 per cent of the facilities department budget.

Government funding for facilities maintenance is divided into two areas now. Infrastructure Maintenance Renewal and Capital Maintenance Renewal. Capital projects have to be things that extend the life of the building, such as roofing and windows. NLPS has been focusing on stucco and brick work, roofing, windows and projects that keep water out of buildings.

The division is also working with its insurance providers to implement recommendations that could reduce insurance premiums.


Scholarship Report

Terry Moghrabi, Associate Superintendent, presented the Board with an overview of the scholarships awarded to NLPS students last year. About 11 per cent of students received a financial award and the overall total was $20,000 higher than the previous year. Moghrabi noted the division is planning some changes to the scholarship section of the division website and will be promoting the scholarships that are available in the hopes of increasing the number of students receiving awards and the total amount they are accessing.


Assurance Measures

Superintendent Rick Cusson presented the Board with the results of the provincial Assurance Survey and how the division's results compare to previous years.

The division transitioned from the previous Accountability Pillar model to the new Assurance Model in 2020-2021. The government surveyed students, teachers and parents/guardians in February. Some questions were the same ones used in previous years in the Accountability Pillar survey, while others were new. In total there were 1,673 respondents from NLPS including 298 teachers. 

The division's results remained consistent in many areas with previous years. NLPS improved significantly in its three-year high school completion rate and improved its five-year high school completion rate as well. The three-year rate increased almost 10 per cent from 73.7% to 83.1 and the five-year rate went from 78.9% to 82.7%.

One area that declined was parental involvement, which likely reflects the decrease in opportunities to be involved in schools due to COVID-19 protocols.

The complete Assurance Measures report will be included in the division's Annual Education Results Report, which is due to be approved by the Board at its final meeting in November.


COVID Update

Bill Driedger, Associate Superintendent, reported that the division receives a daily list from Alberta Heath Services that includes all COVID cases that are connected to division schools and have been deemed to be infectious while attending school. This ranges from 1 to 4 cases per day. In addition, parents and guardians are continuing to inform schools of cases, some of which have been confirmed using rapid test kits, but have not been confirmed by AHS.

As of the date of the Board meeting, two NLPS schools were at Alert 2-4, four at Alert 5-9 and one on outbreak status on the provincial COVID status list.


Transportation Concerns

The Board agreed to add its name to a letter being circulated by another school division that expresses concerns about the increasing cost of insurance for bus contractors. The Board will also be sending its own letter to the government outlining the impact this issue has already had on the division's ability to offer student transportation services.

Superintendent Rick Cusson noted funding over the last several years has not kept up with increased fuel and insurance costs that contractors are dealing with. In addition, training for drivers with the introduction of the MELT program has increased by $5,000-$10,000 per driver. The division has tried to assist with keeping training costs down by creating its own driving school and training drivers locally, but this has impacted recruitment and retention of drivers and bus contractors. The division has consolidated as many routes as possible and currently has one route that cannot be filled. 


Mental Health Day for Staff

Superintendent Rick Cusson recommended a change to the 2021-2022 school calendar to provide staff with an additional day off to recognize the efforts they are making to provide students with consistency and a sense of normalcy this year despite the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cusson noted that schools have re-introduced extra curricular activities and opportunities that were limited last year and are implementing those with limited assistance from volunteers and parents due to COVID protocols. Student and staff mental health has been impacted by COVID and staff are feeling more stressed than usual at this time of year. Cusson noted that an extra day off for staff would help reduce some of the stress that staff are feeling and would help them be better prepared to meet the needs of students. 

The Board approved Monday, December 6 as a Wellness Day for staff. With Friday, December 3 already scheduled as a Family Friday, this creates a four-day weekend for students and staff.