WRPS Division 1 candidates discuss class sizes in forum

Rural schools, homework remain topical issues

Wetaskiwin Regional Public Schools (WRPS) Subdivision 1 trustees were questioned on their positions regarding homework, effective class sizes and the future of rural schools during a recent candidates forum.

Incumbent Lynn Ware and new candidates Arnold Van Os and Cynthia McLachlan were all in attendance of the Sept. 27 forum, which was held at the Central Community Hall.

Ware has lived in the area for 22 years as a member of the farming community and has sat as a trustee for five years.

Her dedication to keeping the division’s rural schools open is what brought her to the board. Although, at the time, Rosebrier School could not be saved others still remain active. “Somehow we managed to redirect.”

When it comes to struggling budgets, Ware feels closing schools is picking the low hanging fruit and serves as a band-aid solution. “Eventually you’ll run out of schools to close.”

Ware also wants more accountability and transparency for the board of trustees.

Van Os has resided in the area for more than 18 years and runs an organic dairy farm with his family.

As a trustee candidate he presented three main areas of focus as his priorities.

“I think students need to be the central focus in our schools,” said Van Os. With Wetaskiwin’s diverse student population, Van Os feels the school division must work to meet all the students needs.

Van Os’s second and third areas of focus are accountability and transparency, and establishing a Christian school in Wetaskiwin. “I think that’s one of the needs of the community. There’s many others but that’s one of them.”

With two children now in high school, McLachlan has been involved in the WRPS community for many years.

“They’re my two favourite teachers,” said McLachlan. Being a parent, McLachlan says her children have kept her in a constant state of learning and knows that is the role of a trustees as well.

McLachlan feels it is the responsibility of the board to held provide students with a foundation of success, with a focus on streamlining classes and addressing student mental health challenges. “I would like to make a positive difference in the quality of education.”

McLachlan is also an active volunteer both in and out of the school community.

The first forum question addressed to the candidates was if they believed students should be given homework prior to Grade 6 and in later high school grades, as well as how it is appropriate for those whose days are made longer by lengthy rural bus routes.

Ware says she feels school hours are the best working hours for children, when they are most awake and active for learning. “I think that’s plenty of time to get work done.”

“There’s lots of time,” agreed candidate Van Os. However, he added some of the onus must be on the students to use their school hours effectively.

McLachlan feels some homework from schools is appropriate, so long as it consistent throughout a student’s school career and does not create a difficult transition into high school with a dramatically increased workload. “I believe kids should have some homework. I believe it instills a good work ethic.”

The candidates were also questioned on what they feel the future holds for rural schools.

Van Os says rural schools are not always the most cost effective but sometimes better meet the needs of the students by providing closer schools. He feels the division cannot close all its rural schools. “You close communities as you close schools.”

McLachlan agrees rural schools better meet student needs with shorter bus times and smaller class sizes. On the other hand, she says she sees families taking their children out of the communities to attend other schools. “A community is built around a school.”

Ware first got involved with WRPS five years ago when Rosebrier School and a number of other rural schools were threatened with closure. While Rosebrier could not be saved other schools were able to remain open. Rural schools are a passion of Ware’s. “I am here because of this very issue. I am for small schools.”

The third question candidates faced was what class size they felt provided the optimal learning environment for students. All three candidates agree that it is not a magic number that provides the best learning environment for students but classes that place students of the same academic level together to provide students with peer based learning at the same or similar pace.

Voting stations for Rural Electoral Subdivision 1 (county residents only) will be placed at: Malmo Mission Church, Angus Ridge Hall, Millet Agriplex, Central Community Hall, Vang Church and the County of Wetaskiwin administration office. Institutional voting will take place from 1 to 2 p.m. at the Wetaskiwin Hospital.

Advanced vote dates for Subdivision 1 are: Oct. 5 and 11 from 4 to 8 p.m. at the County of Wetaskiwin administration office.

amelia.naismith@pipestoneflyer.ca