By Justin Seward
Representatives from the County of Forty Mile and Prairie Rose Public Schools met via Zoom on Feb. 23 to discuss possible plans for Burdett School.
The County ran by PRSP about potential enhancements to the schools, rather than a potential closure.
“We threw the idea at the, that because we’re right in the heart of an irrigation belt here in Southern Alberta —Burdett is and Bow Island— a lot of the students that are going to graduate out of Burdett, a lot of them end up either working in the community or not too far away, but more and more of them are even starting to look into the trades,” said County Reeve Steve Wikkerink.
“We threw the idea out there of can we make something different in Burdett that’s unique to get these kids more trained (in) the agriculture field that’s right around us, but also be able to give them extra training through some high school grades to get them more prepared to try to go to trades school.”
The County heard the ideas from Burdett School staff that are already working with students at the junior high level and heard a lot support for the idea of a Burdett High School come from parents of students at the school.
“When you have those two things already encouraging us to at least look at the option of a high school there — if those two groups are asking you — I just feel we have to at least explore the option and see what we can do,” he said.
“We wanted it to be different in some ways than what (Senator) Gershaw’s doing — maybe some of it will be the same— but I challenge both boards, let’s make this uniquely Burdett. So more focused on agriculture, I suggested to them maybe you could do an irrigation management course in a high school —which a lot of would be done online— you could do an agronomy course, which could feed into one of the sciences. But both of those courses provides the kids some hands-on training.”
Wikkerink added, “If you can help them towards some of their career goals while helping them finish high school, I just think that’s a neat different way to keep them in high school.”
In mid-February, the County,with the assistance of the current Mennonite parents of Burdett School, put together a survey that was distributed to the Burdett parents, staff and the community.
“We got a 100 responses and we shared those with the trustees on Tuesday,” said Wikkerink.
“We forwarded them a copy of the survey so they could look at it because there was (a lot) of written comments on there.”
Wikkerink had another conversation last week with PRPS’s board chair Stuart Angle after the meeting and both sides are hoping to plan a community meeting in the near future.
“It was a solution-based meeting, based on our Capital Plan,” said Angle.
“They had some alternative proposals that we’ll be looking into it. We both established that our Mennonite students are priority for us and we want the best facilities possible for them.”
Angle said PRSP will need time to digest the information the County gave them.
Burdett School has been on top of PRSP’s Capital Plan list since 2019 for a modernization.
Other option include adding space at Senator Gershaw — which would allow the school to become K-to-12 — and or a new Burdett School.