By Carlie Connolly
Last year, the Prairie Rose School division purchased the old RCMP building in Redcliff and it underwent renovations all last year so they could house the new Mennonite students this year.
Isabel F. Cox school in Redcliff, which is under the Prairie Rose division, had two classrooms open and the students who were enrolled in the Mennonite program were separated from the rest of the school with different schedules and such for the students.
Sept. 5 was the school’s anniversary and this year, the new building for the students opened its doors and they were able to finally have their own space.
There are many in the Mennonite community who work in the greenhouse and agriculture industries.
With a lot of these students, English isn’t their first language as they come from Mexico and Angela Baron, communication coordinator at Prairie Rose division said it wasn’t a comfortable atmosphere for them to attend the public system.
“I think there were some concerns with bullying, concerns with their religion or technology being a concern for some of the families,” she said.
A lot of the students were either becoming homeschooled or were attending programs that didn’t meet the criteria of Alberta Education. And so, their goal was to find the students and offer them the opportunity to have a proper education in an environment where they felt comfortable. This is where the thought behind the program developed.
They also have a school in Burdett that is a public school, but only around 10% of the students that attended that school are English speaking students. Ninety percent of the 240 are Mennonite. In their area, it’s quite a demand.
“It was finding a way to make it so that they were comfortable, even having their own bus to the school,” she said.
The capacity of the school is 60 and is already full.
“We’ll be looking at alternatives as far as being able to expand it.” Baron said.
They now have extra help with people who speak German, so they have educational assistants in there that can help communicate easily with the families and communities and help the kids with that second language while at the same time getting the Alberta curriculum requirement.
The program is said to be doing well. There is the normal day school like all other schools during the day along with an evening program. Sometimes the Mennonite students will work during the day and come in at night. Baron said that this allows them to bring in extra students because there is a capacity and the building isn’t huge.
“In order to grow our enrollment, that’s where its going to come from is these second language students that need to be able to find these environments that they are comfortable in going to school.”