On May 27th, 2013, Sarah Salter Kelly, Lakedell School Chair, Friends of Wetaskiwin Rural Schools made 1 of 4 passionate presentations to the Wetaskiwin Regional School Board in a last minute attempt to save the schools and community hubs from closure. “It’s frustrating to be here before you once again speaking on behalf of our school when it feels like I have done a lot of talking and little has been heard. I think we can all agree that in the last few months’ opportunities have been given to re-consider the proposed school consolidation.
We had the Minister come to the table telling us out right that if we have a number to bring forward to the legislature to assist with the unique problems our County is facing, he will bring that number forward. And yet there has been no visible response from the Board. Our MLA has put in time and energy to encourage dialogue between county, school board, province and community members, to listen to each other and come up with a better plan… and still nothing has come of it.
It was discovered that the Stantec Report which has been cited time and time again as the primary data pushing for consolidation has falsified information that was used to determine whether or not our rural schools are viable. What was an obvious conflict of interest to the Friends of Wetaskiwin Rural Schools did not seem important to the Board. In fact we were told the Stantec study is not used.
We have seen a new PC policy proposing changes to rural school funding models brought forward by Christine Woods. When it was shown to the Minister of Education, his exact comments were… ‘This is excellent’. A Rural Development study from 2004 funded by the government has been brought forward stating directly of the need to change school funding models to ensure the long term longevity of our rural communities.
FWRS has asked for a Moratorium on closures. We have asked simply for the School Board to educate themselves as to whether or not the closures of the past 20 years in Alberta have been effective. We would like to see the information about whether or not closing Rosebriar was effective. How can the delivery of the supposed benefits be measured when no study has ever been done?
It is our notion that the School Board is designed to ensure the effective delivery and governance of education. That trustees are elected to give voice to the demographic they represent. And yet we have had trustees on this board who do not think the people they are representing are important. That using our voice and asserting our power is seen is aggressive and derisive.
Parents have whole heartedly declared that their preference for small class sizes outweighs their desire for ‘more programming’. Some families even intentionally moved into the district because of the schools. The County has spoken of new sub divisions being built and sold which obviously will increase our population. We have said we prefer the intimacy of our community schools over the supposed additional resources available in a consolidated location.
A study was done surveying the forecasted choices of local parents many of whom expressed they would move their child out of district or home school if consolidation came into effect. Rather than supporting us in this survey it was initially frowned upon by the Board. School councils and principals were asked not to send the information home to parents.
The total cost of building Falun up to include all kids, inclusive of gym, portables, parking lot, park, and new sewage system has never been released. Again the province asked for numbers as to what that looks like and they as of yet have not been given any.
Given this information, you can understand why the people in this community do not feel like they are being adequately represented nor does their voice mean anything. We have accessed the steps laid out for us, done what we can to share information with the Board, however our letters are not even discussed at the meetings, simply tacked onto the agendas.
You all have a choice today to decide what you want the future of education in this county to look like. What are the strong morals, values and beliefs that set a strong foundation for learning…? If there is any doubt in your heart as to what that decision shall be, then today is not the day to close our schools.”
The vote by Board of Trustees was 4-4 so the Pipestone and Lakedell schools will, once again open their doors in September, 2014.