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WHEREAS the Small Schools by Necessity Grant is currently available from Alberta Education to provide critical funding to small rural and urban jurisdictions to operate small schools, which must be kept open because of lengthy travel distances to neighbouring schools; and
WHEREAS the large majority of small schools are located in rural Alberta;
WHEREAS there is concern that the province will reduce or discontinue the Small Schools by Necessity Grant following the 2009/2010 school year;
WHEREAS rural schools are essential to the survival of rural communities;
AND WHEREAS reducing or eliminating the Small Schools by Necessity Grant is not consistent with the Province’s ‘Vision for Rural Alberta’ – of vibrant and sustainable communities where rural and urban families, individuals, organizations, businesses and governments are vital contributors to growth, prosperity and quality of life of Albertans;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Alberta Association of Municipal Districts and Counties urge the Government of Alberta to preserve the Small Schools by Necessity Grant.
The need for continuation of the Small Schools by Necessity Grant is an emergent resolution due to the recent information received that the Province of Alberta may reduce or discontinue the Small Schools by Necessity Grant following the 2009/2010 school year.
Many rural schools cannot be maintained without the Small Schools by Necessity Grant, and the closure of small rural schools will be detrimental to the communities surrounding them. Closure of rural schools will result in rural school children travelling for excessive periods of time to reach other schools, and some will be travelling for over two hours every school day. The impact will be seen not only in the rural communities but in the rural enivornment overall. If the education, recreation, cultural and social needs of the community are no longer available in their local area the population could be lost to areas where the residents can find those opportunities.
Although there has not been an offical announcement from the province that the Small Schools by Necessity Grant is being discontinued there is a growing concern by School Divisions that the grant will be discontinued. As an example, the Chinook’s Edge School Division in south central Alberta, has seen their Small Schools by Necessity Grant reduced in recent years from $800,000 to $476,000. These grants are critical in allowing School Boards to keep smaller rural schools open. The uncertainty of funding and support for small rural schools has a detrimental effect on their enrolment, further frustrating the efforts of small rural communities to maintain essential services.
Small rural schools act as the local recreation and social centres for many Counties and Municipal Districts. Two years ago, Alberta’s Rural Development Strategy – A Place to Grow, stated “Schools are the heart of rural communities. And just like families in all parts of Alberta, parents in rural Alberta understand that a good education is critical to the furture of their children and their communities”.
Resolution ER2-09F: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the AAMDC strongly support locally elected school boards and request the province ensure in the new education act that:
1. School boards have the authority to responsibly undertake local education priorities and
2. School boards are given natural person powers.
In September 2004, the Government of Alberta introduced the Renewed Funding Framework, which specifically recognizes that rural school boards face unique challenges, such as declining enrolments, operation of necessary small schools, and transport of students over long distances.
Education provides Small Schools by Necessity funding to recognize the costs associated with the operation of necessary small schools. Under Budget 2010, this funding allocation remains at status quo, holding steady at the same funding level as the 2009/10 school year. The calculation takes into account the enrolment levels of schools, the distance between schools and the capacity of schools. This funding is provided to the jurisdiction as a whole so that locally elected school boards have maximum flexibility in making decisions at the local level about the continued operation of small schools in their jurisdiction.
We realize delivering quality education to rural students has many challenges, and we continue to find solutions to meet those challenges.
The AAMDC accepts that the intent of the resolution has been met as the Small Schools by Necessity Grant has been preserved.