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School council questions RVS decision

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  |  Posted: Thursday, Apr 03, 2014 11:38 am

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Re: “Rocky View Schools votes down alternative calendar,” March 27

Dear Editor,

On March 20, two members of Herons Crossing Parent Council made a presentation to Rocky View School Division (RVSD) board of trustees that addressed the balanced/alternative calendar proposal put forth by Ralph McCall School and Herons Crossing School. As most people know, Ralph McCall has been operating on a modified calendar for over 15 years.

This calendar typically starts 10 to 14 days earlier than the traditional calendar; however it also offers breaks every six weeks. The timing of these breaks allows the student an opportunity to recharge and refocus. Teachers and parents have commented that they have noticed an improvement in learning retention and behaviour. Rocky View School Division required that the parent council of Ralph McCall and the school administration conduct a parental survey every two years. We were required to achieve a 70 per cent approval rating to ensure this calendar would move forward. The results were always above the required 70 per cent, so we would present our calendar to the board of trustees for approval. They approved it every year, except for this year. What changed?

Airdrie is a growing school division, and we finally have two new schools opening up this fall. This brought many changes to RVSD schools in Airdrie, most notably boundary changes. However, Ralph McCall was also slated to become a K-4. It was no longer going to be a K-8. The future of the balanced/alternative calendar was unclear as well. Two members of Ralph McCall parent council made a presentation to the board of trustees in June, 2011 to help keep Ralph McCall a K-8 and to keep the calendar. They were unsuccessful in keeping the grade configuration, however, there was a motion passed by Trustee Don Thomas, “The Board of Trustees directs the Superintendent to develop a plan, when appropriate, to discuss calendar options with parents of children in the area to be served by the school in Sagewood and its feeder schools prior to the opening of the school in Sagewood.”

This allowed us to run the calendar for few more years and also signaled that we would need to do some more work if we wanted to continue with the calendar. When RVSD came to Ralph McCall to discuss boundary changes parents asked about the grade configuration and the calendar. It was made clear that Ralph McCall would be a K-4, and Ralph McCall could not be the only school operating on the alternative/balanced calendar. That was when parents realized Herons Crossing, Ralph McCall and C.W. Perry would have to be on the same calendar. We started to get to work.

At this point we asked for RVSD to help define what they needed for approval. An RVSD executive drafted the survey and set the parameters. It looked very similar to what was required of Ralph McCall in the past, a 70 per cent parental approval rating. What was unclear was if this 70 per cent was for each school, or overall. We hosted two more open house meetings, one at Ralph McCall and one at Herons Crossing. At both meetings we asked about the 70 per cent. Both times we were told it was 70 per cent of all respondents. After these meetings we sent out the survey. The wording of the survey never changed. A couple of weeks later the result came back, Ralph McCall 83.7 per cent in favour, Herons Crossing 49.7 per cent in favour, Nose Creek 61.3 per cent in favour, Muriel Clayton 56.3 per cent in favour. Overall it was 71.7 per cent in favour and 28.3 per cent not in favour. According to the advice we had been given, we felt that we had enough parental approval to submit our calendar for approval.

However this was not to be the case. The board is citing a number of concerns. The first concern is the 70 per cent parental approval rating. Where did it come from? In all honesty, it came from a RVSD executive. Ralph McCall has always had to have a 70 per cent parental approval rating on its surveys, so perhaps this is where that value came from. The second concern is the 50/50 split at Herons. Our answer is that as a parent group, we were operating in good faith and we had asked on numerous occasions if this was 70 per cent of all respondents or 70 per cent per school. We were always told it was all respondents. There are other concerns, such as cost. RVSD has always operated other programs of choice that have a much higher cost.

So what changed at RVSD? Why was our calendar not approved? As a parent group, we worked hard to promote our calendar and we followed RVSD guidelines under good faith. Ralph McCall’s proposed calendar had always been approved in the past. It has proven to be a successful calendar and has always had high parental approval. I have to believe that there is room for a parent-driven initiative to flourish at RVSD.

Stephen Goodall,

Chair of Ralph McCall Parent Council


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