By Carlie Connolly
At the fourth annual Rural Education Symposium in Canmore last week, rural school divisions got together to discuss the importance of partnership between communities and schools.
Brian Andjelic, superintendent of Prairie Rose School Division said that in rural areas, schools and community go hand in hand.
As people migrate to the cities, that means fewer students, less funding and fewer programs for the rural communities.
“Its really hard to sustain rural communities when you cant sustain rural schools,” he said.
The conference this year saw many educators and municipal government officials, like Cypress County. Mayor of Redcliff, Ernie Reimer was also in attendance.
PRSD is one of the divisions involved in the planning along with a number of other divisions involved in the planning along with a number of other divisions.
One of the key speakers included well-known journalist, Linden MacIntyre, who is a rural man that moved to a big city. He spoke of the importance of rural from his perspective. Noreen Olson was also present, discussing the heritage of rural education in Alberta.
One of the highlights that Andjelic mentioned was the Minister of Education, Gordon Dirks, speaking on rural sustainability. Part of his address was that rural issues are important considerations for the government.
“This conference is not just about how rural can survive but in fact how can rural thrive,” said Andjelic.
Their were also a few PRSD presentations, including one from Kristie Dick, who is a trustee in the Northern part of Prairie Rose, who presented on behalf of Return to Rural. This is an organization in the northern part of their district with Special Areas and municipality working hard to promote those who have left the Special Areas to return to work and play back there. It was a discussion to encourage people to come back from the cities, and promoted the advantages of living in rural communities, supporting the schools.
Her presentation also talked of successes they have had. Her co-presenter is a former student from PRSD, and has returned to the Oyen area after going to school and finishing off a degree. She returned to rural instead of staying in a large city, which showed a success story of returning to rural.
Among the other PRSD presentations was Kim Meunier, who is with human services for the Alberta Government, speaking on behalf of the division. The program she discussed was Alberta Works, talking about the relationship Alberta Works has to PRSD, who has been instrumental in the partnership with the Bow Island Alternative Program. It was about successful partnerships between school and community that help to improve the viability of both the rural community and the schools.
Other presentations included the principle at South Central High School, who told the story of the partnership between the Oyen baseball academy and South Central School, showing promising practices of partnerships that work.
The learning coordinator of PRSD along with Andjelic also spoke.
Andjelic said that to him, one of the benefits for students going to school in a rural community is that they are small enough in size that the students can get the attention they need from teachers.
“The teacher’s just get to know them so well. The teacher’s get to know what they’re strengths and assets are. The teacher’s also get to know where the kids need the most amount of help,” he said.
Attendance was down 50 from last year, with 210 this year, and Andjelic attributed that to another provincial conference that would be held this coming weekend.
The teacher attendance was down this year, with more parents and municipal officials.
“It was less about just simply education and more about the partnership between community and schools which is more a role of trustees and municipal officials.”