Tuesday, 19 February 2013 09:07

Schuler School providing strong rural education

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Schuler School is proof a quality education can be delivered in a rural setting. The school underwent its review recently and the results were positive with recommendations from Prairie Rose School Division central office staff deemed “fine-tuning.”


“This is a positive school review,” said Brad Volkman, assistant superintendent. “This is merely fine-tuning. It will help (the school) go from good to great.”
Schuler School is located just shy of an hour northeast of Medicine Hat, along Highway 41 and close to the Alberta/Saskatchewan border. There are 62 students in grades 1-9, and four students attending a privately-run kindergarten.
What makes the school population even more interesting is that 35 per cent of students (22) are Mennonite, while 14 students reside in Saskatchewan, but attend Schuler because it is their closest educational facility.
“It’s an interesting combination of students and the community is starting to realize the combination they have,” Schuler School Principal Jason Duchscherer told board trustees at the Feb. 5 regular meeting where the results of the school review were presented.
 “We have just over a 60-student population and without Saskatchewan or Mennonite students, we would look much differently.”
For such a small school, the number of parents returning the surveys handed out for the review was particularly high with 24 out of a possible 35 parents completing the task.
“That’s the highest return I’ve seen since I’ve been doing this,” pointed out Volkman.
Part of the reason that may be so high is the way the school communicates with parents. An active school council shared the information and parents were emailed and texted about its importance. Information is shared regularly with parents and staff through newsletters, phone calls, emails, texts and the website.
Recommendations coming out of the review included a desire to see additional option courses offered at the school as well as finding ways to increase parental involvement. While there is an active parent council, it can tend to be the same half-dozen parents doing the work, said Volkman. Teachers want more professional development opportunities with their peers, and the library has been challenged to become more appealing for older students as junior high usage is quite low.
The librarian has already moved forward by creating a library club for junior high students to help with re-shelving books, putting up bulletin boards and organizing reading contests.
Some concern about the general deterioration of the school building was noted, as well as a need to explore how to address the unique educational needs of the growing Mennonite population which can present English as a Second Language and cultural barriers.
Students were also asked their feedback about their education in Schuler.
“It’s always enlightening to talk to the students and see what they recommend,” said Volkman.
Some of those student suggestions included being allowed to listen to music on personal devices when working on individual assignments, repairing the outside basketball nets and avoiding repeating the same worksheets in multi-graded classes.
Volkman said school officials are to be commended in the fact that despite most classes include three grade levels and ESL students, a levelled reading program has been developed in Division 1, and video conferencing is being used in the older grade levels to create single-graded classrooms.
Volkman also pointed out how positive the school’s relationship is with the community at large.
Two local grazing associations have donated a lot of money over the years for various school projects and many joint use agreements are in place for the facilities in the small community for students to use the arena and community members to use the school.
“In a community like Schuler, the school is the hub. It’s nice to see this happening without exchanging dollars.”
“I’ve been amazed at the facilities Schuler has and the use of them,” added Duchscherer, who is enjoying his first year as principal of the school after holding the same position at the Oyen Public School.
Student achievement at the school is also high. Over the past five years, students’ test results have been equal to or significantly higher than what was expected based on these same students’ results three years previous.
Volkman concluded his report by re-iterating the importance of the culture of co-operation and community that exists in the school.
“This truly is one community, one school,” he added.
Duchscherer said school officials have already moved forward in dealing with many of the recommendations in the report and commended the “very professional and hard working” school staff.
“They are one hundred per cent dedicated to the students in that community. The staff (at the school) deserves a lot of credit. They are an excellent staff.”

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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