GSACRD stakeholder meeting draws range of program ideas

About 100 parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders met at St. Albert High School Wednesday night to discuss alternate programs in the division

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Technology enhanced learning and delivery rated high with approximately 100 area parents, teachers, students and other Greater St. Albert Catholic Regional School Division (GSACRD) stakeholders during a special meeting Wednesday night. The local Catholic school division held the stakeholder meeting at St. Albert High School around the question of what specialized alternative programs are worth pursuing in the division, seeking stakeholder input on what programs the division could pursue.

Alternate programs were defined as those that were based on a particular language, religion, culture, subject matter or teaching philosophy. The programs would consist of a consistent set of unique features that are to be long-term and sustainable. They should involve the entire elementary, junior high and high school grades or combinations thereof.

GSACRD currently runs several alternate programs, the most common of which is the French Immersion program. Other divisional alternate programs include Fine Arts Media Enhancement, hockey and soccer programs as well as the International Baccalaureate (IB) program, the latter of which is available at two of GSACRD’s St. Albert schools. Alternate programs are not special needs programs, programs or religious education offered within the Catholic or Protestant school boards.

Participants in the hands-on meeting were divided into ten tables of approximately 10 participants each and were asked to discuss ideas about alternative programs. Suggestions made at one table that included Morinville Community High School Principal Vic Pedersen and student Brennan Fitzgerald as participants provided a variety of ideas from year round schooling to a program that would delve into the social responsibilities of social media. Other suggestions included language programs, including Spanish and Mandarin, single sex programs whereby students would choose a class or two that would populated only by their gender, school uniforms and more out of school programming.

The latter idea is one MCHS student Brenna Fitzgerald said would benefit many of his fellow students, something he’s experienced with fellow fine art students.

“They spend a lot of time dedicated to performances and to the arts,” he said. “They become really engaged and as a result, they become more so engaged in the school.”

Fitzgerald said the same applies to students active in sports that are in school but derive enjoyment from their school sport taking place outside the school proper.

“I think that if we could find certain activities that would target the students that aren’t in the sports and aren’t in the fine arts, we would have this group of random people thrown in. So if we could find some sort of program that targeted those individuals, then I think the interest in the whole school environment would shoot up.”

Although Fitzgerald’s suggestions met with the interest and attention of the other stakeholders at the table, when put to a vote, the table collectively felt access to the International Baccalaureate program, which provides a high, internationally-recognized standard of learning, should be available from K to 12 throughout the division.

Once each table had chosen their top pick, the table results were shared and all stakeholders were given to vote their top pick from the ten collective decisions. The poll of 100 stakeholders resulted in the following results:

  • Technology enhanced learning and delivery
  • Promotion of the Fine Arts Media Enhancement Program
  • Strengthen GSACRD’s core programs with specialists
  • Flex program for high schools (reduces class time required allowing for study and tutorial time)
  • Maintain French Immersion from K-12
  • Access to the International Baccalaureate Program from K-12
  • Enhanced Community Services within schools (day care, physiotherapy, library)
  • Strengthen vocational programming in schools (composite high school – trades, cosmetology, etc.)
  • Maintaining all current programming
  • Project based learning via Reggio program

GSACRD Board Chair Laurie-Ann Turnbull said the stakeholder meeting is an important tool for the board, one they try to do twice each year.

“It’s always an opportunity to bring together all of our stakeholders to have a voice in some of the upcoming plans of the division,” she said, adding the purpose of Wednesday night’s meeting was to look at some of the programs parents would like to see in the division’s schools. “We’ll take that into account when we make some decisions in the future.”

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