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Meeting Discusses High School Closure in Andrew

Emily Mailhot Reporter

Vegreville News Advertiser

A public meeting on Thursday, May 9th, offered one last step of consultation between the Elk Island Public School board and the people of Andrew about what can be done to improve programming options for students at the Andrew School.

After discussions with students, teachers, and parents, which are all recorded and available on the school board’s website, the board has decided to bring forward the option of closing grades 10-12 at the school at their next EIPS board meeting.

Mark Liguori, Superintendent for EIPS, opened the session with a brief history of the consultation process and a few of the ideas that they have for the future of the school.

The Q and A period, led by moderator Jeff Speedy, a director with EIPS, covered a lot of ground, with concerns coming forward about transportation, cause of the shutdown, the questions used in consultation with the students, and the future of the school when it can no longer boast K-12 programming.

Because of low enrollment, Andrew School has been faced with the challenge of helping their high school students achieve the same quality of education as their peers from larger schools.

“For example, in math class, there might be several slightly different levels in the same grade, all being taught at once. Some students can succeed in that environment, but not everyone can. A lot of students find it helps to be in a class with other students who are learning the same thing so they can help each other study.” Explained Ligouri, “When we were asking the students what they wanted their high school education to look like, they overwhelmingly said that they wanted to take options classes and do work experience, to help them prepare for the careers they might have in the future.”

In these consultations with the students and teachers, they were asked open-ended questions in round table discussions. While the grade 11 students said that they wanted to be able to graduate from Andrew School, younger students and Junior High students put a stronger priority on being able to take more classes, even if they would have to take the bus to Vegreville or Lamont.

The current boundary within the school division places Andrew students as residing between GE RD 183, down RGE RD 175 to Township 551 and Township 545, and up the eastern edge of Lamont County to the North edge. After the high school closure, elementary and junior high students will retain the same boundary, while a new boundary will be drawn that separates students between the Lamont High School and Vegreville Composite High School districts.

As for the future of Andrew School, and the village as a whole, many community members in attendance expressed the concern that once the high school grades closed down, the rest of the school would not be long to follow, and the community as a whole would suffer. In this same vein of questioning, they asked what would be done with the extra rooms in the school, and what would be done to improve Junior High programming.

Liguori answered that while they won’t be free to go over future options for the school in detail until a decision is finalized by the board, they have seen other small schools have success in a few areas.

“We know that schools such as Smoky Lake have had some success with a community daycare in the school. There could also be designated rooms for service clubs, etc. to help utilize as much of the school as possible.”

Liguori also stated that junior high students will be able to take part in programs that allow them to visit and take options classes at other schools, so they can get a feel for them before reaching the high school grades.