Sask. Rivers school board is going forward with their plan to remove community school co-ordinators.
About a month ago, the school division announced it would be phasing out the co-ordinators, in a effort to meet the needs of more schools in the division.
“Basically it is around making sure we can serve our vulnerable students and families wherever they are,” said Robert Bratvold, director of education for Sask. Rivers. “That means we have to align the resources where it makes the most sense in terms of meeting their needs and in terms of programs and activities that support student learning.”
The decision made many Prince Albert residents concerned, prompting a delegation attending a Sask. Rivers board meeting as a delegation.
“The delegation was a very good discussion,” Bratvold said. “They had lots of very good information and a few questions from trustees as well.
“It was positive, in terms of there wasn’t a lot of animosity or anything like that,” he added. “They were really clear in terms of their concerns and very responsive when the trustees asked them questions.”
The questions revolved around two main topics, Bratvold said. The first topic was the consultation process.
“They were concerned this was a hasty decision and that there wasn’t any consultation done with it,” he said.
A lot of the consultation process was done internally, he said.
“It is true that we didn’t connect with particular students and parents in the communities but we certainly connected with the community school staff and co-ordinators in the year prior to the decision,” Bratvold said.
The other questions were mainly asking if they phased out community co-ordinators, who would take over that workload, he explained.
“There are a whole bunch of different ways of addressing that,” Bratvold said. “One of the examples we used was we have several schools whose population is very similar to what you would find in a designated community school and yet they are not designated, don’t have a co-ordinator and yet lots of the staff, SCC and parent volunteers and community agency partners all help to support that community and engagement work.”
Bratvold said he wouldn’t want to speak for the delegation, but he believes the board addressed the concerns the best they could.
“I think there was enough information that they gathered, either at the delegation at the meeting or afterwards that helped them understand about how the work will be done and the need for the change,” Bratvold said. “I don’t think there was any argument at all that they get there are lots of vulnerable students in our population and they are not all centred in community schools.”
Delphine Melchert, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Community Schools Association (SCSA) and delegation member, said they still have some concerns about the process used.
“We are very concerned that there was no public consultation and there have been no details coming out in how they are going to implement their new plan moving forward,” Melchert said. “We are looking forward to hearing their plan for how they are going to implement and move forward and we are disappointed there was no public consultation.” He understands people may still have concerns leading up to the change.
“I would suggest they still have concerns and I certainly understand and support that,” Bratvold said. “I think anytime you make this sort of change, we need to attend to those concerns and we will.”
The change will give more students and families needs addressed by making them more like community schools, even if they have not been designated as such, which will most likely please many Prince Albert families.
“We actually, prior to the decision, had fairly substantial plans in terms of how it might look,” Bratvold said. “The actual details in terms of how we would allocate staff based on need and how we will relocate the actual financial resources to schools will be part of our regular budgeting process that we will just begin now that the provincial budget is out.”
They will be working with school principals and staff of the community schools to see how to best meet the needs of the students.
“I haven’t made specific arrangements to work with the SCSA, but I expect Delphine, as executive director, will be very supportive in terms of trying to ensure that all of our schools become more rich in terms of that community school philosophy,” Bratvold said.
He said Sask. Rivers understand the change will be a challenging one.
“We are not naïve in the sense that there is going to be substantial work going forward,” Bratvold said. “We are just confident that this is the right things to align resources equitably and to meet the needs of our vulnerable students and families.”
The co-ordinators will be phased out on June 27, but no one will really see the impact or changes until the fall school year.