By Stan Ashbee
Sunny South News
On Jan. 31, Palliser Regional Schools held a Coaldale School Facilities Planning Open House at the Coaldale Community Centre. The open house was held to review the status of Coaldale and Sunnyside schools. The open house addressed past and current enrolment, programs offered, facility limitations and opportunities. The evening welcomed parents and residents to share ideas and offer suggestions on the future growth of Coaldale schools.
Palliser noted the evening was put together to help plan how to best meet the needs of students in Coaldale and area — now and for the next decade.
“We’ve been looking at the enrolment numbers in Coaldale schools and we’ve got a situation, which is going to get a little bit more tricky come a year from now. At Jennie Emery Elementary School particularly, because the numbers are growing there and the space is limited,” said Dr. Garry Andrews, Palliser Regional Schools’ acting superintendent.
What is going to happen in a year or two, Andrews explained, is the bulge will be moving into R.I. Baker Middle School.
“It’s something we need to look at now. We’ve got a year or so to remedy it, but it’s not something that can be left unattended,” he added.
Andrews said representatives from Palliser were in Coaldale, first and foremost, to listen to parents and residents.
“There’s no clear-cut solution to the way it might unfold. As a result of that, it requires a lot more planning and co-ordinating,” he said.
According to Andrews, statistics were presented at the open house and those in attendance were asked to give their best suggestions related to it.
“We set it up so we had an opening large group discussion and then people spent the time circulating from school site to school site in the community centre. We had poster boards in back and the things that were challenges and the things that were benefits. People had a chance to talk with the people that truly know and that’s the principals and vice-principals,” noted Andrews.
Those in attendance, Andrews said, filled out forms and some will e-mail Palliser with suggestions in regards to how to move forward into the future.
“I’ve already got some e-mails. With that, we’re going to organize their responses into, as close as we can, to different themes and then that will be on our website. People will have an opportunity to see what everybody said and then respond to it. This was just the first meeting to get it started. Again, we have a year and a bit to make a decision on what we do. I’m not exactly sure how long it will take to organize ourselves to get this into some fashion, where we can distill it down into some specific possibilities,” he said.
Andrews said the next meeting might take a look at a variety of options and perhaps the following meeting might take a look at a couple of different options narrowed down. “And then choosing what way to go from there.”
According to Andrews, prior to his involvement with Palliser as its acting superintendent, he had some experience within another school jurisdiction working with a somewhat similar type of situation.
“At the end of the day, we came down to two possibilities. Those two possibilities were then weighed out in the community and then the board had to make a decision. No one decision is going to please everybody and there’s probably going to be a time when people will have to adjust to a new way of doing business. It does take some time, but in that particular circumstance, the decision the board made then, is now very well accepted. I think the key is having the input of the people, as you proceed down that road,” he pointed out.
Andrews said as students move through the school system, in a few years, R.I. Baker is going to also have a bulge coming through.
“It’s not just like it’s ending, the numbers are there,” he said, adding Palliser has heard the Town of Coaldale sits at about 8,000 population-wise.
“That puts the school age population at about 2,400 and spread throughout our system and Coaldale Christian School and Holy Spirit — those numbers are going to impact the enrolment in the schools. It doesn’t seem to be a temporary thing, it seems like this is something that will need to be contended with over the upcoming years,” Andrews added.
Andrews said those in attendance at the open house offered good suggestions and responses, thus far.
“We hope it keeps up. Our goal now will be to try and put something together we can have on our website, so people can see what other people said,” he noted.
For more info visit pallisersd.ab.ca.