Trustees get face time with education minister
Thursday, Apr 20, 2017 06:00 am
Chair of the Board of Trustees of Rocky View Schools (RVS) Colleen Munro said she and some of her colleagues made the most of their chance to meet face-to-face with provincial Education Minister David Eggen April 7.
“We had an hour with the minister. We had sent our agenda items up to him, which was basically two: infrastructure and the funding formula,” she said. “We immediately started talking about student enrolment and new schools for Rocky View.
“It was really solutions-based and he was interested in knowing our numbers and knowing our growth. It was very positive.”
Munro said Airdrie trustee Todd Brand, along with Cochrane trustee Fiona Gilbert and RVS Superintendent of Schools Greg Luterbach, attended the meeting in Edmonton.
“We wanted him to understand that on a percentage basis we are very likely the fastest growing school board in the province,” Munro said. “We have more kindergarten students coming in than we have Grade 12 students graduating.”
Enrolment in RVS grew by 5.3 per cent from 2015 to 2016, according to figures released in October 2016. The province announced a new public school for Airdrie March 21, which is far fewer than the division was hoping for. RVS’ 2018 to 2020 Capital Plan includes the construction of 14 new schools throughout the division, including five in Airdrie, two in Chestermere, Cochrane and Langdon and one in Irricana, Crossfield and Springbank. Munro said new schools are needed to keep up with student growth.
“We wanted (Eggen) to understand that we’ve got three of the six fastest growing urban areas in Canada within our borders: Cochrane, Chestermere and Airdrie,” Munro said. “Any time we don’t get any school approvals with all that growth it means we have pinch points where we have to accommodate students in really creative ways.”
Munro said having the opportunity to meet with Eggen was “incredibly important.”
“There’s just things that you can talk about face-to-face and nuances and body language and you can pick up threads of conversation that you can’t do any other way,” she said.
Eggen has been invited to visit schools in RVS before but has had to cancel, according to Munro. She said she’s hopeful he will now make a point of witnessing crowding in RVS schools first hand.
“The invitation is open for him to come and see us,” she said. “I know he wants to come and see the Building Futures project in Cochrane or Airdrie. Any time you can get a minister on site to actually experience what life is like, that’s the best case scenario.”
While no decisions or promises were made as a result of the April 7 meeting, Munro said she is still encouraged.
“For him to understand where we sit in the rest of the 60 school boards – we’re the fifth largest – we really tried to impress that on him,” she said. “We’re really a microcosm of the province. We’ve got really rural places and we’ve got really urban places.
“Our balancing act as the Board of Trustees can’t be unlike some of the things the province has to go through. The province knows, as far as the education piece goes, that we’re doing a really good job. They understand the innovative things that we’re doing. It’s the bricks and mortar pieces that we have to keep reminding and reminding (them) about.”