Challenges Ahead

Accommodating Students

On May 24, 2011, the province approved RVS' top three capital projects, which included a middle school and high school in Airdrie and a multi-level school in Chestermere. These projects are scheduled for a 2014 opening. To address its immediate needs Rocky View Schools passed a contingency plan in December, 2010, for nineteen new portable classrooms, the relocation of twelve portable classrooms, the construction of an outreach facility for the Chestermere sector (required because of a lease termination), a 150 capacity school in northwest Airdrie and a 125 capacity school for west Airdrie. On June 2, 2010, RVS received approval to sell the former Alberta Transportation Building in Airdrie. The proceeds from the sale of this building will be used to fund the contingency plan projects for September 2011 and 2012: fifteen new portables, the outreach facility and the 150 capacity school for NW Airdrie. Approximately $8 million in additional funding is required for the projects remaining in the approved contingency plan and for the additional projects required to bridge the accommodation needs until the opening of a new facility.

Addressing Student Diversity

Alberta Education's frozen Severe Disabilities Funding Profile, which allocates funding for students with special education needs, coupled with Rocky View Schools' continued growth, is severely impacting classrooms across the jurisdiction. Receiving funding for less than one percent of its student population - the lowest profile in the province - Rocky View Schools' annual severe disabilities grant provides funding for only 153.7 students, yet the number of students identified and served totals 247. For RVS, this discrepency equates to an annual revenue shortfall of $4,116,250. In comparison to the provincial average of three percent, the shortfall totals $5,372,200. Funds to serve these students is being supplemented from the jurisdiction's basic student grants, which provide fewer services for RVS' student population as a whole. Despite introducing a new continuum of service delivery model that aimed to increase capacity among teachers, teaching assistants, school administrators and divisional staff in meeting the diverse needs of all learners and in the use of technology to support instruction, Alberta Education’s insufficient grant levels over the past decade have resulted in a low degree of satisfaction among parents and staff. Through RVS’ satisfaction survey implemented in June 2010, only 72 percent of parents and 75 percent of staff agreed that students have access to specialized programs and community supports when needed - a two to five percent drop from the previous year. Correspondingly, low percentages of parents and staff agreed their child/student is meeting or exceeding his/her Individual Program Plan (IPP) goal.

Era of Diminishing Resources

The provincial government’s decision to cut a number of instructional and operational grants and provide
zero percent increases in the areas of Transportation and Plant Operations and Maintenance (POM) will
see service levels in Rocky View Schools (RVS) drop significantly for the 2011/12 school year. Tabled Feb. 24, 2011, the provincial budget equated to a $5 million increase to RVS’ basic instruction grant to cover the cost of the Alberta Teachers’ Association’s provincial bargained salary increase. The budget’s fine print, however, outlined over $4.2 million in cuts to other instructional grants, including the loss of revenues for the Gr. 4-6 Class Size Initiative, Alberta Initiative for School Improvement (AISI), CTS and Technology equipment. The net result: a number of Education Centre postions will be cut and schools will be asked to reduce service levels. With the end of the funding for the Stepping Stones project and Upstart program also slated in 2011, RVS is challenged to find methods and resources to continue to support students who benefit from these programs. In addition, there is uncertainty around the funding mechanisms that will come forward to support the current community services that also support students.

Serving First Nations, Métis and Inuit  Learners

As illustrated through Alberta Education’s new First Nations, Métis and Inuit (FNMI) APORI Overall Summary, across the province greater attention needs to be given to the success and progress of FNMI Learners. In Rocky View, FNMI students already receive enhanced support through the services of an FNMI Program Specialist and an FNMI Program Assistant. As well, a FNMI Advisory Committee has been established and meets every 5 to 6 weeks to provide guidance and recommendations on serving this population of students. Through 2010/11 School Education Plans, administrators were asked to identify appropriate interventions for these students, as well as outline FNMI initiatives being undertaken to infuse the aboriginal culture into the fabric of school life.

Parents as Learning Partners 

Despite high levels of satisfaction among parents with the jurisdiction’s programs and services, RVS needs to work more closely with schools to bring parents of the Generation X era into the jurisdiction’s 21st Century fold. While the use of technology as an instructional tool has gained great momentum among students and staff over the past two years, many of the digital technologies emerging to support instruction are not well understood by parents. Ongoing communication, live demonstrations of technology as a learning tool, and advice on how parents can bridge the gap between home and school will be imperative.

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