Clearview not alone in education cuts

If parents and communities of schools in the Clearview School Division believe they’re being shortchanged

If parents and communities of schools in the Clearview School Division believe they’re being shortchanged with the loss a few teachers, that impact is pretty soft compared to other parts of the province.

With the three Stettler schools poised to take the biggest hit from the projected cuts of 7.1 teaching positions, many parents believe that could hurt their children, as classes might have a few more students.

Realistically, as enrolment in Clearview continues to decline, the number of teachers should follow that trend, because provincial funding is based on students in seats.

But if anyone thinks things are tough in Stettler and Clearview, look elsewhere around the province.

Just north, Battle River School Division will close Rosalind and Lougheed this summer. Both schools have higher enrolment than the smallest schools in Clearview, said Ken Checkel, who chairs the school board.

At the Stettler “community consultation meeting” last week, Checkel also said that closing schools in Clearview is inevitable in the long-term, especially as enrolment slides.

The challenge for shrinking schools is the new reality across Canada, as families have fewer children and populations shift to urban from rural, Clearview secretary-treasurer Lewis Hill later told me when I confirmed figures for my newspaper story.

On the other hand, as many new and upgraded schools were being announced in communities all over the province, Premier Alison Redford was being criticized for not adding enough.

Just watching the TV news last week, education was getting a bad rap in Edmonton as one of the board chairs was calling for three more schools than the premier announced.

That would create huge class sizes, much larger than in Stettler and elsewhere in Clearview, where a low level of teachers will be reduced.

Rather than focus on the few things that are being reduced or lost, celebrate the good things that local schools provide and offer.

Ignore the cuts, and probably all parents would say their children get a great education in schools in Stettler, Erskine, Donalda, Big Valley and Byemoor, as well as Clearview schools in Coronation and Brownfield.

Clearview trustees and administrators have stated at the community consultations that they’re committed to providing the best education for all students in their schools.

That will continue as long as each school is sustainable.

During the meetings, people quickly learned that local authorities are virtually strapped by provincial funding that’s based on enrolment and distributed annually, with little room to plan long-term.

Trustees positively told the audience to deal with change and further urged parents and residents to write to the provincial government to review funding where the student enrolment hinders divisions with declining population.

They encouraged people to write to MLA Rick Strankman, Education Minister Jeff Johnston, and Premier Redford.

While one Stettler person asked why the MLA and minister were absent from those meetings, trustee Patty Dittrick said each was invited, but none showed up.

But, realistically, they shouldn’t be expected to attend such meetings, when similar sessions are probably happening quite frequently across the province.

— Richard Froese

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