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Under the Northern Lights - October 5, 2022

Good News Items

  • Trustee Debra Lozinski thanked staff for the warm welcome trustees have received during their recent tours of schools in the Bonnyville area.

  • Board Chair Karen Packard congratulated Cold Lake Junior High on the celebration of its new identity, which was held on Wednesday, September 14.

  • Board Chair Packard also congratulated Bonnyville Centralized High School on its grand opening, which was held on Thursday, September 29.

  • Board Chair Packard also highlighted her attendance at the City of Cold Lake's flag raising ceremony on the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. The City raised the Treaty 6 and Metis flags outside of City Hall.

  • Trustee Cheryl Edwards congratulated the Iron River School parent advisory council on the grand opening of the school's playground. Several trustees attended the grand opening event and explored the playground, including the zipline.

  • Trustee Edwards also highlighted the recent dinner hosted by APEGA that highlighted the many programs they offer to schools and communities, including Science Olympics and the Curious Coders Club.

  • Superintendent Rick Cusson noted that NLPS was pleased to host the Minister of Education and her staff as she met with Boards throughout the region. This was an opportunity for Boards to discuss issues with the Minister. NLPS focused on student transportation challenges and school infrastructure.

  • Superintendent Cusson also highlighted the positive feedback received from students at Bonnyville Centralized High School and Cold Lake High School following their trips to the Canadian Rockies Outdoor Education Centre to complete the water experience program. This is part of a partnership between the school division and provides students with a unique outdoor learning experience while earning certifications and credits towards graduation. 

  • Jimmi Lou Irvine, Associate Superintendent, thanked the Bonnyville Friendship Centre for the opportunity to attend the Not Invisible Unmask the Silence event to honour Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Stolen Children, held at the Centennial Centre on Tuesday, October 4. Several NLPS staff participated and connected with families and community members.

  • Vice-Chair Garry Kissel congratulated Glendon School on a well-attended welcome back barbecue that was combined with a community registration evening.

  • Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager, presented the Board with Good News highlights from schools in the division. The full presentation is available on our website: Good News October 5, 2022


School Fees

After reviewing the August Operations Summary, which showed higher than anticipated revenues in school-generated funds, trustees requested a report outlining what fees are being charged by schools in the division. Board Policy 17 - Student Fees outlines the process schools need to follow when charging fees to families.


Summer School Report

Associate Superintendent Terry Moghrabi provided the Board with an overview of the Summer School programming that took place in July. A total of 20 courses were offered at each location.

Moghrabi said enrollment was down slightly due to a variety of reasons including changes made to this year's program, increased opportunities for families to take vacations due to COVID restrictions being lifted, and the availability of more online summer school options for students.


Transportation Update

Matt Richter, Director of Transportation, discussed the current status of the Student Transportation system and the challenges the division is experiencing with filling vacant bus routes.

Richter reported that at the end of June, all routes had drivers, but in mid-August, multiple resignations led to a shortage of drivers. When school started, there were seven routes without drivers, and four of those routes have not yet been filled. Richter explained that due to training requirements, new drivers can't be trained fast enough to fill the vacancies when they occur. Not only is the training time consuming, but there are glitches with the system that cause delays as well. For instance, it can take up to five working days to get confirmation from Alberta Transportation that all requirements are completed and the driver can start work.

Richter reported that training of new drivers is underway and the division received permission from Alberta Transportation for its training instruction to work with Cold Lake Buses to help train their drivers as well. This will help get more drivers trained and hopefully fill vacant routes faster. He noted that retention will continue to be an issue as industry is also looking for drivers with the same training requirements and is able to pay them more.

A large influx of late applications for transportation also put a strain on finalizing routes and communicating with parents. Richter noted that when new riders were added to routes, it changed pick up times for other families. The number of last minute changes was frustrating and confusing for students and parents. 

On a positive note, Richter shared that it looks like bus operators will experience a bit of relief from skyrocketing insurance costs this year. However, sourcing new buses and parts to repair existing buses continues to be challenging. Richter reported that one of the division's buses has been waiting for repairs for three months and no parts are available to fix it. Used buses are difficult to find and the wait for a new bus is six to nine months.

Board Chair Karen Packard noted that in the Board's recent meeting with the Minister of Education, the Minister said almost every Board was reporting issues with student transportation. The Board continues to share information with the Minister about the challenges it is experiencing. 


Lac La Biche Facilities

The Board is moving forward with its plan to address school infrastructure needs in Lac La Biche.

Trustees approved a motion to declare the former Dr. Swift Middle School as surplus. This will now go to the Minister of Education for approval. Once that approval is received, the Board can proceed with disposition of the school.

Central Elementary School had already been declared surplus by the Board in 2018. The Board directed administration to send a letter to the Minister of Education, reiterating that the school had been declared surplus and requesting expedited finalization of the disposition of the school. 

A replacement school for Vera M. Welsh Elementary School in Lac La Biche remains the Board's top priority in its Capital Plan


Lac La Biche Rotary Request

The Board declined a request from the Rotary Club of Lac La Biche for a champagne brunch to be held at J.A. Williams High School during the upcoming Festival of Trees. The division's current Administrative Procedure 543 - Community Use of Schools requires that all events be smoke-free, drug-free and alcohol-free.

Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock said administration had discussed potential changes to the AP due to the new community performing arts centre being developed at Bonnyville Centralzied High School, but there would not be time to fully explore those changes, provide opportunities for stakeholder feedback, and introduce a revised AP prior to this year's Festival of Trees.


Board Priorities

The Board reaffirmed its commitment to continue the focus on the division's current priorities for an additional year. The priorities - improving student mental health and wellness, and improving students' numeracy skills and understanding - were identified through extensive consultation during the 2018-2019 school year. Unfortunately, implementation of improvement strategies was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board noted that while normally it would consult with stakeholders every three years, more time was needed to determine progress on the current priorities, and compile data to help identify if there were other areas that might need to be prioritized. For example, due to the pandemic, there is currently no data from Provincial Achievement Tests and not much data from Provincial Diploma Exams available, which can help identify areas of improvement.

The Board agreed that stakeholder consultations should be held in the 2023-2024 school year to determine if new priorities should be established for the division and what those priorities should be.


Grand Centre Middle School Transfer

The Board approved the transfer of the former Grand Centre Middle School to the City of Cold Lake. The Minister of Education will need to approve the disposition of the school before the transfer is finalized.