Clearview School Division trustee candidates vow to preserve schools and find ways to maintain quality education with limited funding.
They attended an all-candidates’ forum Tuesday night in Stettler, a week before this Monday’s vote.
The Stettler school study and saving rural schools were the key issues in the forum, which attracted less than 100 people.
“I don’t think we need to reconfigure the schools,” said Stettler incumbent Peter Simons.
Clearview is conducting a pilot project this year that provides one administrator for Stettler Elementary School and Stettler Middle School. The plan could lead to configured grades.
Stettler challengers Staci Gerlitz and Dave Goodwin agreed to maintain the current configuration.
“Stettler Outreach School is very important to maintain and I don’t think 13-year-olds can easily integrate with 17-year-olds,” Gerlitz said.
“The system they have now with the middle school is ideal,” Goodwin said.
Maintaining rural schools is an issue for candidates in wards serving schools in Byemoor, Donalda and Erskine.
Former trustee John Schofer, now running again, suggested a shortened school week.
“A four-day school week works well in Brownfield and it would work in Byemoor,” said Schofer, who served as trustee for 12 years before he was unseated three years ago.
He noted that school already has half-days on Fridays.
Up against Schofer in the Oct. 21 election, incumbent trustee Rhonda Maginn agreed with a four-day week as one option.
“We will listen to your ideas,” Maginn said.
Schools in rural areas benefit students, she said.
“They are worth our finest effort.”
Schofer addressed the same during his opening remarks.
“We are concerned about the school in Byemoor — our small schools are needed,” he said. “I want to fight for our small schools.”
That was also echoed by Erskine-Donalda challenger Patricia Standage and incumbent Cheri Neitz.
“I want our small public schools to be there for our children — viable, vibrant and open,” Standage said. “Our biggest challenge is getting local students to go to their local rural schools.”
She said the division needs to find ways to retain those students and create more educational opportunities for students, such as using industry and business to help teach trades.
Youth is also a factor for the incumbent.
“My vision is to help strengthen our youth and we want to get more creative with less funding,” Neitz said.
When questioned on cutting costs of trustees, each candidate agreed that they would support lower pay and Simons suggested that the board be cut to five or six from the current seven.
Candidates also suggested communication links need to be strengthened between the board, parents, teachers and the community.