Wolf Creek Public Schools is excited to see more students entering our schools than was expected for this year. As the 2022/2023 school year is underway, school division wide there are just under 170 additional full time equivalent (FTE) students entering the school division over previous projections. This can fluctuate over the course of September, before enrollment numbers are finalized at the end of October.
People Services had 1.18 teacher FTE remaining to allocate from the spring and, following a request, the board has granted an additional 2.0 teacher FTE. That allocation will be used in part to address immediate concerns related to increased enrollment, while some will be held to address possible future needs.
Wolf Creek isn’t the only division adding teacher FTE, there are 800 new teachers being added in Alberta. School divisions are often told by Alberta Education to use their large reserves to address rising costs, such as the need for additional staffing due to more students. The problem is not all school divisions are in the same boat when it comes to the reserves they have. I have written previously that Wolf Creek, like many rural school boards, aren’t like other school divisions with the same level of reserves to draw from. All boards cannot be treated the same and the expectation on how to handle rising costs should not be one-size-fits-all.
The board recently met with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and one of our main points of advocacy was for sustained annual increases to funding which align with rising costs and population growth, and to do so through general funding. There has been targeted grant funding from the province, which we are very appreciative of and it is helpful. But if the dollars were provided through general education funding, it would make it easier on boards to predict and make appropriate spending decisions.
A major factor in why additional funding is necessary is because what is provided by schools goes far beyond the classroom. There is an umbrella of services now being placed on school divisions from resources for mental health, rising insurance costs, resources for inclusion efforts and the cost of fuel. All of these are important and Wolf Creek has continued to be committed to providing the resources needed to best serve our students and families in and beyond the classroom. What we as a board hope for is that Alberta Education can begin to work across ministries, with Alberta Health and other government ministries, to find additional funding to support much-needed resources such as mental health and inclusion supports.
Meetings such as this with the minister are important, and our board values and is grateful for the time to meet with Minister LaGrange. These positive conversations allow us to bring the concerns of those who we serve as a board (students, parents, families and staff members) and advocate for improvement and change. We are continuously hopeful that we will see some movement on funding for school divisions and will continue to work towards that goal.
Luci Henry is the board chair for Wolf Creek Public Schools. Wolf Creek Public Schools Board is served by trustees representing the communities and rural areas of Alix, Bentley, Blackfalds, Bluffton, Clive, Eckville, Lacombe, Ponoka and Rimbey. Serving approximately 7,300 students, from kindergarten to grade 12, WCPS employs approximately 412 teachers and 350 support staff in 30 schools, including five colony schools, throughout the division.