The Swan Hills School Council held their Jan. 21 meeting at the school’s Flex Room, and the meeting was also live-streamed through Google Meet for those who could not attend in person.
· The Div. 3/4 Students’ Union (SU) donated $200 to the food bank at Christmas time from their fundraising efforts. An article about their fundraising efforts is on the school website with a picture.
· Around Feb. 15, the SU will host a small raffle for Valentine’s Day, similar to the Christmas raffle.
· The SU met with the school administration at the end of November and discussed putting some small lockers in the gym change rooms for the students to secure their valuables. This could possibly be a Grizzly Cubs fundraising item to consider.
Each school division needs to create four assurance reports annually by law; Education Planning and Reporting, Financials, School Plans and Reporting, and Infrastructure and Maintenance. Recently the Education Planning and Reporting report was addressed with a focus on the special needs section.
Some interesting takeaways are that while there has been a slight increase in students who need higher support levels, there has been a decrease across the school division in the number of students needing supports overall. This may be because these students' parents may have decided to keep them at home because of COVID-19.
Due to COVID-19, parents have been having virtual meetings with specialists, such as speech and occupational therapists, while working with their children. This development has been beneficial to parents because they have seen for themselves why their child is receiving special supports.
Four concerns were brought forward during this report:
1. There is a need for a re-entry resource for students that have special needs. The belief is that the skills that these students have acquired will have diminished.
2. There has been a limited gain in inclusion since students left the schools due to COVID-19
3. Because of limited budgets, small schools have limited resources for mild/moderate Program Unit Funding (PUF) educational supports.
4. Alberta Health Services has given a mandate not to provide proactive programming in schools.
Schools are now funded on a three-year spectrum; last year, this year, and the projected future year. Funding is based on the average of these figures, with the intention of allowing schools to cushion the effects of large drops in population. Pembina Hills has had a slight increase in population, so the funding for next year will be the same as the current year. In contrast, a lot of districts are seeing their funding decrease.
Municipal and School Divisions will be holding elections for trustees in the fall. Last year Pembina Hills decided to reduce the number of trustees from seven to six. This means that the Swan Hills’ electoral area and Fort Assiniboine’s will be combined to make one Ward. It would be very beneficial to get a representative from Swan Hills to apply, preferably a single representative that the whole town could get behind (instead of multiple candidates that would potentially split the votes).
Division One Update
· Div. 1 wasn’t able to go sledding for their December monthly celebration due to cold weather. Students were able to decorate individually packaged cookies that had been sponsored by Home Hardware and watch the virtual Christmas Concert.
· On Jan. 22, students will participate in a virtual presentation offered through the Earth Rangers program, which has been sponsored by Crescent Point Energy.
· Many students showed their school spirit by wearing stripes for Stripes Day on Jan. 14. The next dress-up day will be Wild West Day on Jan. 22.
· For the January monthly celebration, the last recess time will be extended on Jan. 28.
· The bi-annual reading testing has started. This testing is especially important because the school was unable to perform this testing last June. This test focuses on the student’s word accuracy, fluency, and comprehension.
· The school is currently discussing Valentine’s Day activities. The students will not be participating in a Valentine’s Day card exchange due to COVID-19 health restrictions.
Division Two Update
· The Swan Hills School Handbell Group will be hosting a curbside bottle drive. The proceeds will go towards purchasing additional materials and equipment for the Handbell Group (hand chimes, mallets, gloves, possibly another octave of bells). There are a lot of new participants in handbells this year.
· Students have been requesting a virtual spring concert again, so plans are in the works for that.
· Safety Patrol has been up and running since the end of October. Just a reminder that the patrols are out from 8:15 to 8:30 AM and from 3:25 to 3:40 PM. Parents and the public are asked to please use the drop off zone when dropping off students. Drivers are not allowed to enter or exit the staff parking lot if the patrollers have their signs out.
Division Three and Four Update
· See Students’ Union news above.
The School Council will move from having monthly meetings to having bi-monthly meetings in September, November, January, March, and May.
· The draft alternate calendar for the next school year will be posted on the school website for review and feedback.
· Discussed new or different options classes for grade seven students. The school currently offers art, woods, and foods classes; drama has been offered in the past and might be coming up again.
· Career and technology studies (CTS) is often a room with a number of students with particular interests, but they often have different interests than their peers, which leads to smaller groups following separate studies. The teachers facilitate and assist the students in their projects. Some students respond well to this setup, and some do not. The school is looking for new ideas or thoughts about some hands-on options that the students would actually want to do. Some ideas would be woods, foods, visual arts, and wildlife courses.
· Lost and found items are piling up. Discussed how to get lost and found items back to parents.
· Recently went over satisfaction surveys for Div. 3/4 students, will be doing them for Div. 2 on Jan. 21. The surveys start with a preamble explaining what the questions mean and why the surveys are taken.
The next School Council meeting will be on Mar. 17, at 7:00 PM.
Dean LaBerge, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grizzly Gazette