The Northern Lights Public Schools Board of Trustees has approved the recommendation of the Cold Lake Configuration Committee to proceed with the proposed Multi-Configuration Scenario for the division’s schools in Cold Lake.
“When we seek engagement and people participate, we want to honour the wisdom of the community,” said Board Chair Arlene Hrynyk following the approval of the recommendation made by the committee. “The committee put a tremendous amount of work into developing options and consulting with the community and we would like to thank them for their contribution and their commitment to our students.”
The transition from the current configuration of the Cold Lake schools to the configuration outlined in the Multi-Configuration scenario will take place over the next three years, with full implementation expected at the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Under the new configuration, North Star Elementary will become a Kindergarten to Grade 6 school (currently K to 3), Cold Elementary will become a Kindergarten to Grade 3 school (currently K to 4), Nelson Heights will become a grades 4 to 6 school (currently 5 to 8), Cold Lake Middle School will become a grades 7 to 9 school (currently 4 to 8), Cold Lake High will become a grades 10-12 school (currently 9 to 12), and Art Smith Aviation Academy will retain its current Kindergarten to Grade 8 configuration, as long as enrolments do not exceed the capacity of the school.
Now that the Board has made its decision about what the new configuration of schools will look like, division administration will begin developing a detailed transition plan, including timelines for shifting students and staff between schools and completing any renovations that are needed to accommodate the changes being made.
“The goal of our transition plan will be to minimize the disruption to students and staff and avoid students having to move multiple times between schools,” explained Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock. “We will also be consulting with families at some schools about the timing of some of the transitions that need to be made and what will work best for students.”
Administration will present a plan to the Board and the community in June that includes what changes, if any, will be made for the start of the 2021-2022 school year. This could include some students remaining at their current schools for an additional year and/or renovations being done at some sites over the summer.
The configuration process began in June 2019 when NLPS hosted public meetings to share enrolment projections with community that showed four of the division’s schools in the City of Cold Lake would be near, at or over capacity by the start of the 2023-2024 school year (Cold Lake Elementary, Nelson Heights, Cold Lake High, and Art Smith Aviation Academy). NLPS proposed the creation of a committee to analyze the situation, examine options, propose potential solutions, and consult with the community.
The Cold Lake Configuration Committee was formed in November 2019 and consisted of parent representatives from each Cold Lake school, an administrator from each school, and division representatives.The committee’s mandate was to review all of the available information, develop potential scenarios, consult with the community, and make a recommendation to the Board. It was not tasked with developing a transition plan or timeline to implement the new configuration, as that would be the responsibility of administration once the Board had decided how to proceed.
The committee reviewed the current status (enrolment, capacity, condition of facility) of each school, examined enrolment projections, discussed a variety of different solutions, and eventually developed three potential scenarios for the community to consider. Public engagement was scheduled to start in March 2020, but was delayed due to COVID-19.
The committee reconvened after schools re-opened in the fall and reviewed the proposed scenarios, along with updated enrolment projections. In November, the three proposed scenarios - Streamlined Configuration, High School Option, and Multi-Configuration were presented to the community in three online engagement sessions - one for NLPS staff and two for the public. The results of those engagements showed almost equal support for the Streamlined and Multi-Configuration scenarios.
After reviewing the results, the committee decided to eliminate the least supported scenario (high school option), and start another round of consultation with the community. In February, the committee launched an online engagement on Engage NLPS that included discussion forums, an opportunity to submit questions, background information, and answers to frequently asked questions. After providing two weeks for the public to review and discuss the information presented and ask questions, a survey was launched that asked participants which of the two scenarios they preferred. Over 1,600 people visited the site during the engagement period.
The survey results once again indicated that both scenarios had close to equal support in the community. After reviewing the results of all of the engagements, as well as the feedback collected, the committee unanimously recommended that the Board implement the Multi-Configuration scenario. That recommendation was presented to the Board on March 24. The presentation will be posted on the NLPS website next week.