It’s been another week of hitting the pavement and getting out there to talk with you about your concerns. I had a fantastic time attending the Blue Quill Party in the Park, as well as the Windermere Carnival – these are just some of the events that make our communities a great place for families. And I can definitely feel the energy since the return to school, from parents, teachers and above all, students. So, now that we’re all settling in to that September routine, let me first take a moment to wish all of you an exciting, productive and safe 2013-2014 school year.
As we start the year, school overcrowding has been top of mind for many folks in the Ward. Schools are making tough decisions to reduce the number of grades that they teach, or to bus children further away to accommodate the squeeze. This is hardly an ideal solution for the students. And I’m absolutely convinced we can do better at planning for the exceptional growth in our communities here in Ward H.
As trustee, here’s what I would do to address overcrowding:
Tackle next-year’s problems now
We already know how overcrowding is impacting our schools this year, but we need to start working now to make sure we do a better job for next year. That means lining up modular classrooms, making sure our Ward is a top priority for the province, and working with schools to plan together about what the right solutions and boundaries might look like. The sooner we get started, the less likely we are to find our backs against the wall facing overcrowded schools again next September.
Look at the numbers
We know which schools are overcrowded now, but we also have a pretty good idea where the pressures will be next year, and in five years, for that matter. Alberta will probably add another 100,000 K-12 students over the next decade, so we can’t be planning just a year at a time. We need to be at least five to ten years ahead of the curve in setting priorities for new schools, advocating to the province for their construction actually getting them built in time to meet demand.
Expand alternative programming
I’ve been hearing from parents that we need more choices in what programming is available their children in schools. This is not just a great idea for learning, but it also can help with overcrowding. Some parents have told me that it’s worth it for their child to bus a little further to school if they can participate in the right language of alternative program. By strengthening alternative programs in older schools north of 23rd Avenue, we can help balance our enrollment while also giving parents and students the programming choices that they want.
These are just a few of the ideas that I’ve been sharing with people at events, and on doorsteps. There are certainly others as well, though, and I look forward to hearing more about what can be done to ease overcrowding. The education curriculum teaches our students how to be creative thinkers and problem solvers – as a school board, we have to do better at applying the same lesson.