Thursday, 13 October 2016 08:00

PRSD officials will gather info regarding viability of New Brigden School

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Prairie Rose School Division administration will start to gather important data for board trustees around the future of New Brigden School, including meeting with area residents who have children who are not yet in school.

The idea of starting a feasibility study was discussed at the Oct. 11 regular board meeting, after the enrolment numbers for the current school year were presented.
“As we look at enrolment ... we have a limited population (in the New Brigden area) at this time,” said Trustee Christie Dick. “Earlier this spring, we did some feasibility work with parents. Is it time to bring forward a motion to look at a feasibility study for New Brigden School?”
Brian Andjelic, superintendent of schools, said there was a flurry of activity at the end of June with the New Brigden area. A meeting with parents of children at the school in March, indicated some families would be choosing to take their children to Oyen and attendance would only likely be about 13 students in the grades 1-9 facility.
“We felt there would be a viable enrolment, but obviously things have changed,” said Andjelic.
At the June 28 meeting, the board approved transportation requests from nine families in the New Brigden School attendance area, who were looking for their children to attend school in Oyen. That transportation has been provided at no cost to the parents. Students who are being transported to another school jurisdiction are charged a transportation fee.
At the time of that decision by the board, Dick said it was a difficult one.
“We always have an intent to support small, rural schools, however the sheer number of requests made me think about what we’re achieving there. It’s about parent choice and being an advocate for students ...”
PRSD officials committed to keeping the school operating for this school year, even with not knowing how many students would be attending. Enrolment numbers as of Sept. 30 show there are only two students attending New Brigden.
Andjelic says the school has one teacher and one secretary/librarian employed this school year. Both of the students are in Grade 2.
The typical process in these kinds of situations is for a board to put forward a notice of closure or change to programs and then a feasibility study is undertaken.
“That leads to hard feelings in a community,” Andjelic pointed out. “In my history, what happens is the community feels once a motion is made, it’s a forgone conclusion. This seems to be more of a problem-solving approach.”
When division administration met with parents earlier this year, it was only those who currently have children who were attending New Brigden School. There are four children enrolled in the private ECS program this school year, which operates out of the community school building.
Andjelic said administration could meet with the wider community and families with young children who have not entered the school system. This would give the board a better indication of what the future of the school community may look like in the coming years and what kind of educational program would best suit the community’s needs, whether that be a grades 1-9 facility, or a grades 1-6 school instead.
Trustee Bob Wickens said he is in favour of this approach because it is more community-driven, but questioned whether timelines could be met. Andjelic said the work would likely begin as early as this month, and added he feels there is time.
“This is problem solving and future setting,” said Chair Stuart Angle.
The board voted in favour of doing some feasibility work with the New Brigden community, to get underway as soon as possible.
Any data gathered during the process will be brought forward to a meeting for the board’s discussion and consideration.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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