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Chinook's Edge annual report identifies education challenges

Staff wellness identified among several issues facing the 11,000-student school system

INNISFAIL — The Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) annual education report for 2020-21 has identified a number of trends and challenges facing the 11,000-student school system, including staff wellness.

The report was reviewed and approved by trustees at the recent regularly scheduled board meeting and will now be forwarded to Alberta Education. The document was prepared in accordance with the Education Act as well as the Fiscal Planning and Transparency Act. 

“The 2020-2021 school year was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” board chair Holly Bilton said in the report. “Students and staff members experienced disruption to learning as the province shifted to at-home learning periodically over the course of the year. 

“Our staff members developed significant skills delivering online learning using platforms such as Google Classroom. Chinook’s Edge staff members were committed to supporting students academically, as well as with their social emotional needs.”

CESD is headquartered in Innisfail and has schools throughout the region.

The 15-page report looked at student growth and achievement, teaching and leading, learning supports, governance, as well as local and societal context. 

The report identified four principle trends, issues and challenges facing the division: inclusive education; transportation; facilities; and staff wellness.

Regarding transportation, the report says the needs and expectations of students and parents continue to exceed the resources being made available to CESD.

“Overall, transportation services face major shortages in budget areas such as staffing, capital and other operational costs,” the report states. “Increases to the cost of fuel have not been funded accordingly for the last five years. 

“In addition, the lack of adequate funding along with the increased demand for our limited resources has made it difficult to evergreen our bus fleet. As such, the foreseeable future looks bleak for capital replacement.”

With regards to facilities, the report states that as “community populations continue to increase, we face challenges with enrolments over school capacity. While we have been able to manipulate our school grade configurations, it is becoming increasingly evident that our facilities must be a priority.”

Regarding staff wellness, the report identified a growing need for support for staff members. 

“Our educational assistants, teaching staff, and administrators are looking for tools at the school level to help staff members find balance and energy to keep up with growing student needs. 

“To this end, student services has formed a staff wellness steering committee to gather data about the type of support needed in our schools, aspects of our  profession that are causing most challenge, and will work to determine high leverage strategies to support our educators at all levels.”

Regarding inclusive education, the report states that it has “become very apparent that the complexity and needs of our students have been increasing. These increased needs require professional development from staff, access to specialized consultants from the division/region, trained support staff, collaborative partnerships, and time for teachers to plan, develop and meet about individualized student support plans.”

“We trust the funding allocation model will be reviewed and revised so the funding adequately supports the cost of providing high quality inclusive education in Alberta.”

The CESD board and administration has made Alberta Education aware of the challenges outlined in the report and “will continue to work collaboratively with the province to discuss solutions and strategies in the upcoming years,” said Bilton.

The complete Chinook’s Edge School Division annual education results report is available for viewing on the division’s website.