Saskatchewan

Rural Sask. community concerned about education reform

Fox Valley residents are concerned about what provincial education reform could mean for their school and community.

Fox Valley mayor says there is 'nothing' in the educational reform report that the town agrees with

A commissioned report on education governance reform in Saskatchewan highlighted three options that involve fewer boards and different methods to select trustees. Fox Valley's mayor says any form of amalgamation will hurt rather than help the village. (iStockphoto)

Fox Valley, Sask. residents are rallying against potential changes to the administration of the Saskatchewan K-12 education system. 

The village held an emergency meeting at town hall on Thursday to discuss an educational reform report that was commissioned by the province.

More than 100 residents showed up to express their concerns — in a village with a population listed at 260. 

Mayor Sean Checkley said on Saturday that council was concerned as soon as they read the review report, completed by civil servant Dan Perrins, which looked at governance and administration of public education.

"We decided that there was nothing in there that we technically agreed with, at all, and for Fox Valley in rural Saskatchewan, it'd be detrimental for us." 

The report offered no single method of governance or administration as a solution. Rather, it gave multiple options that involve fewer boards and different methods of trustee selection.

One option would be to combine the existing public boards of education into a single one that would look after the 606 public schools in the province. 

Currently, there are 28 publicly funded school boards in the province, of which 18 are public, nine are separate (eight Catholic and one Protestant) and one is francophone, according to the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.

Another would create four regional boards of education, and the third would create between eight to 14 public school divisions. 

Checkley said any form of amalgamation will hurt rather than help Fox Valley.

"We're concerned about losing our school potentially down the road," he said.

Repeating history 

Fox Valley School is part of the Chinook School division, which was formed in 2006 when the provincial government reduced the number of school divisions from 71. 

That change was made following a 2004 report, which was an independent commission on financing K-12 education. 

Checkley said the latest report opens old wounds for some, as it is reminiscent of the school closures that happened following the 2004 report. School closures saw kids shifted to Fox Valley. Checkley said it took the children years to settle into the new school. 

"Those younger kids that were just entered in to the school system possibly could go through two amalgamations and that would be an extreme shock or culture shock to them to be able to readjust [again]." 

According to Checkley, things aren't running efficiently even a decade after the new students joined the school. 

"There's kids that are having to share textbooks because enough aren't being supplied. That to me is unacceptable. That to me isn't going to be fixed by amalgamation."

Mayor Sean Checkley said the community of Fox Valley is also worried about money distribution post-amalgamation. (Google Maps)

The mayor said numerous other communities share the same fears. 

Fox Valley council invited MLA Doug Steele to Thursday's meeting. Checkley said that the MLA expressed his support, but could not attend because he had already committed to another community's meeting that day on the same topic. 

CBC Saskatchewan attempted to contact Steele on Saturday, but he could not be reached. 

NDP opposition leader Trent Wotherspoon was at the Fox Valley meeting, as were MLAs Carla Beck and Nicole Rancourt. 

A six-person panel has been appointed to consult with education stakeholders on the recommendations in the report. The panel was expected to meet throughout the province in January, and was supposed to hear from the public via online submissions. 

Consultation ends Jan. 23 and the panel will present their findings to the education minister in February.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story stated that there were 28 public school boards in the province. In fact, only 18 of the school boards in the province are public.
    Jan 23, 2017 3:47 PM CT

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