By: Frank Green
The local school board plans to dole out $75,000 to each of the district’s rural high schools, in Valemount, McBride, and Mackenzie.
The one-time grant is meant to help the schools deal with the declining enrollment that’s pinched their budgets—schools are mostly funded based on how many students attend classes, and fewer students means less funding and fewer teachers
School Board Trustee Brenda Hooker said the grants are unprecedented, as far as she knows. She framed the decision as a band aid while the Board grapples with the “gap” between rural and urban education—urban schools with more students can offer more classes and opportunities.
“We’ve never seen the levels of enrollment at the high schools that we’re looking at right now,” said Hooker of the low enrollment at rural schools. “It’s almost gotten to the point where it’s a crisis.”
Derrick Shaw, the principal of McBride Secondary, was quick to express his gratitude for the grant, which is more than 6 per cent of his $1.2 million budget. He plans on using half of the $75,000 to bring in an educational assistant, and hasn’t decided about the other half.
“It’s great that the board has heard our community,” Shaw said. “But it doesn’t do anything to solve our problem.”