The parent council at Beaverlodge Elementary School (BES) is seeking a significant change to Beaverlodge’s educational structure.
Council members approached Peace Wapiti School Division’s (PWSD) board last week requesting grades 7 to 9 be merged into BES and Beaverlodge Regional High School.
Absorbing the students into the existing PWSD schools in Beaverlodge until a new school can be built here may make sense, according to BES parent council chairperson Stacey Korzenowski.
“From our perspective having junior high is about growing our community and working toward what’s best for our students and Peace Wapiti,” Korzenowski said.
She said it would benefit students because it would be safer to end daily busing on the highway; fewer transitions between schools would be better for their mental health.
Currently, Hythe Regional students travel weekly to BRHS for options courses.
The busing of Beaverlodge junior high school students to Hythe Regional School has long been a source of controversy.
Angela Sears, PWSD communications officer, said the students have been going to HRS since before 1995.
“Busing kids down the highway every day is expensive and not necessary,” Beaverlodge mayor Gary Rycroft told the News recently, when asked about the prospect of a new school.
“They should be in their own community.”
Rycroft said he would like to see a new school offering junior high education in Beaverlodge.
“Beaverlodge Elementary School is a very old school, and we would like to have (junior high) back here too,” he said.
At the PWSD board meeting last week Korzenowski and fellow parent councillor Lana Clark said junior high in Beaverlodge will lead to better access to extracurriculars and “relationship continuity” among students, according to Sears.
Korzenowski said she thought the presentation to the PWSD board went well and the board members appeared receptive.
The PWSD board will discuss the matter again during a future committee of the whole meeting, according to Sears.
Darren Young, PWSD deputy superintendent, said the next committee meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12 but is uncertain if the Beaverlodge issue will be on the agenda.
Given declining enrollment at BES and “flat” enrollment at BRHS, he said there would be room for the three additional grades between the schools.
He added PWSD hasn’t done the “leg work” to determine whether most of the junior high students would go to either BES or BRHS, but it’s possible to fit them.
Korzenowski said a new school building is “the ultimate goal.”
Young noted the PWSD board submits an annual capital plan to Alberta Education which includes new schools.
Given current enrollment, Young said administration likely wouldn’t recommend Beaverlodge have two schools for elementary and junior high grades.
PWSD will be submitting its capital plan in March, and he said the PWSD board will make a decision on the feasibility of a Beaverlodge request at that time.
However, he noted a replacement school is currently not on PWSD’s list of top four priorities.
PWSD’s top four currently consists of a Five Mile Hall-area school, a kindergarten to Grade 8 school in southwest Clairmont, a Peace Wapiti Academy replacement and modernization of Bonanza School.
Factors the board would look at include projected enrollment and the age and utilization of existing facilities, he said.
PWSD would also look at whether there is available land, Young said.
Currently, the divisions owns a piece of vacant land between 7th and Almond Ave. bordered by 10th and 11th Street and formerly used for housing for the Canadian Forces Base that had been located on Saskatoon Mountain.
Beaverlodge town council has been seeking a meeting with the PWSD board since mid-September to discuss use of the land.
Brad Quarin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Town & Country News