Calgary students shocked, angered as future of some adult education up in the air

Adult students attending the Calgary Board of Education's Chinook Learning Services are uncertain about the future of their education.

The CBE is closing the aging Viscount Bennett Centre, which houses the programs

Sean Mcintosh, left, and Kamver Waoji are not happy with the recently announced closure of Viscount Bennett. (Lucie Edwardson/CBC)

Adult students attending the Calgary Board of Education's Chinook Learning Services are uncertain about the future of their education.

On Friday, students were informed by their teachers that Viscount Bennett — a school that's been open since the early 1950s, and currently houses Chinook — would be closing its doors come August.

"You could see on all of their faces how hard they took it, because this might mean they're out of a job." said 27-year-old student Sean Mcintosh. "These are some of the best teachers I've had in my entire life. They deserve better."

The change will effectively cut the adult learning programs admissions by 20 per cent.

Chris Meaden, director of learning for Chinook said the adult learning programs cater to students who might have had "life circumstances" that made it impossible for them to graduate high school, or students looking to upgrade in order to pursue a specific post-secondary program.

Future of programs up in the air

She said the building has reached the end of its lifecycle, and major components such as heating, ventilation and the roof are in bad shape.

"And they would require major renovations in order for us to continue to inhabit that building," she said, adding those costs aren't within the CBE's budget.

Meaden said the CBE will continue to offer high school upgrade courses to students 16 to 20-years-old at James Fowler High School, Lord Beaverbrook High School and Forest Lawn High School.

"Those are all spaces that are underutilized right now because we have been able to open some new high schools in the north and south areas of the city."

But, Meaden said the future of adult learning programs is still up in the air.

"There's lots of things we need to work on to figure out what the adult programming might be in the future," she said. "We're very committed to high school success, but we're also really striving to balance the need for financial stewardship."

Meaden acknowledged that with less space, and less students, it could spell layoffs.

"We anticipate that that could mean there are less teachers, and other staff members as well," she said.

Impact on students

For Mcintosh, the closure is potentially life-altering.

"This is what's really disturbing. My plan, my back-up plan, was to come here and continue my education if I didn't get into SAIT," said the culinary school hopeful.

"Now, if I don't get into SAIT, I don't have a backup plan. I don`t have anywhere I can go to get an education."

Mcintosh said he's tried taking courses online, but it doesn't work for him.

Kamver Waoji, a 20-year-old international student from Tanzania, said he still has other options for his courses — like Bow Valley College — but he's concerned the culture of inclusion and collaboration won't be the same as it is at Chinook.

"The thing is that [at] Chinook, the teachers are very respectful. We've got different races here," he said.

"I'm from Tanzania and my other friends are from different countries but we all collaborate and we treat each other with respect. I`m not sure I`m going to get that sort of comfort from other schools."


Waoji said he'll be able to finish the courses he needs to pursue a bachelor in business administration before next August, but had hoped to return after his BA to upgrade his science marks.

"This affects me because I won't be able to do that at Chinook anymore," he said.

Meaden said talks with CBE partners have already begun and they're hopeful they'll be able to find ways to bring the program back to life for older students.

As for what will happen to the Viscount Bennett building, Meaden said she knows there has been interest shown in the property, but couldn't say for certain what its future would be.