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Thursday, 26 January 2017 08:00

PRSD will consider the closure of New Brigden School

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The process to consider the closure of New Brigden School, or at least some of its programming, is on the table with a motion by the Prairie Rose School Division Board of Trustees.

The decision to consider closing the school, effective June 30 this year, was made at a special meeting of the board Jan. 24.
A different morning meeting with trustees, held behind closed doors, included a presentation by the school council and a group of parents from the community offering up options for the future of the school. A notice of motion for closure likely isn’t a surprise to many, considering the school division held meetings with parents of school-aged children, and those parents who have children not yet in school, in the community last year. This school year there are only two students enrolled in the Grade 1-9 facility.
A decision about whether to close New Brigden School will be made by the board at the April 11 public board meeting.
“It’s our responsibility to consider it and have the conversations,” said Kathy Cooper in making the motion to consider closing the school.
“There has been a lot of work done by this administration and members of that community,”said Trustee Cathy Hogg. “I look forward to combing through all of the (responses and community feedback) and making the best, most informed decision.”
Trustee Arnold Frank said the board has come full circle with this item.
“We’re in a place where no trustee  likes to be, considering the demise of a school,” he added. “We’ve arrived here not by choice, but by circumstances dictated by depopulation.”
Trustee Graeme Dennis said he has sat on the board for a few school closures in the division, and each time he has learned something from them. He pointed out it is just a consideration for closure, and doesn’t mean the school will close.
The formality of making a motion, allows the formal process to start which includes gathering input from the community, as well as holding a public meeting in New Brigden.
Trustees commended the group of parents who made a formal presentation to the trustees during the morning closed meeting and they said it was well done.
Chair Stuart Angle after the special meeting said the parents who made the presentation would like the board to take their suggestions into consideration around the future of New Brigden School.
Also dealt with at the special board meeting was discussion around holding a byelection to fill three vacancies on the board.
Trustees agreed to hold a byelection to fill two vacancies in Ward 1, which is the Oyen/New Brigden area and one vacancy in Ward 4 which is the Redcliff/Ralston area. The day for nominations to be received will be Thursday, Feb. 9 and the byelection will take place Thursday, March 9. Secretary-treasurer Ryan Boser has been made the returning officer for the byelection as well as for school board elections to be held this October.
“Because of the discussion we just had about New Brigden (consideration of school closure), I absolutely want that community represented at this table,” said Hogg. “We need to make sure people of that community know we care about them having good strong, representation around this table.”
Angle said filling all three vacancies, if only for a short time, is positive for the trustees around the table, but also for those people who may be interested in becoming a school board trustee, but wanting to “take it for a test drive and see what the position is like.”
Trustees also discussed undertaking an electoral boundaries review. The deadline to do so is short with the results of such a review needing to be submitted to the Minister of Education by March 1.
Trustees discussed the value of such a review with Hogg speaking in favour of doing one. She moved the board direct administration to conduct an electoral boundaries review with the use of public consultation.
“I would like our constituents to feel like they have a voice in this,” added Hogg.
Cooper said the public has been asked a few times in the past about the electoral boundaries.
“I think we’ve consulted with them and had sufficient consultation to leave it as it is,” she added.
Administration did speak to the time commitment that would be involved with a review and the work around it. There was some discussion about the need to ask the Minister of Education for an extension.
Cooper said she feels administration has enough on their plates, especially in light of the notice of motion around New Brigden School and the byelection.
“I would speak against the motion,” added Frank. “I believe there are sufficient requirements of administration in taking care of other business. I think this would be onerous ... I don’t think we should go down this path.”
In a recorded vote, Hogg voted in favour of the motion, with the rest of the trustees voting against it. It was defeated

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor