Members of the military community at 4 Wing are rallying to keep R.A. Reynolds School. The Northern Lights School Division board recently took the school off its capital plan to place emphasis on the Lac La Biche multiplex.
The decision didn't sit well with Shayna Miles-Ingram, chair of the R.A. Reynolds parent advisory council.
“I was pretty disappointed when they pulled that off the capital plan with the weak reason of the government said it would make Lac La Biche look more important,” Miles-Ingram said.
Capt. Nicole Meszaros, spokesperson for 4 Wing, said in a telephone interview that Colonel David Wheeler is trying to develop a plan to keep the school open for September. The base plans to submit a proposal to NLSD this week for an alterative program in aviation to keep the school open.
“To have an alternative program on the base you have to stress that there is something different that your school will offer that other schools don't offer,” Meszaros said.
She said the base's expertise in aviation could provide the basis for an alternative program at 4 Wing and keep the school open.
“Aviation is a wonderful and rich topic. You can study its history. You can study its influence on society.” She added engineering, science, and math focus as areas of expertise the alternative school could specialize in.
If the alternative program were accepted NLSD would remain the school board for R.A. Reynolds. The board voted in March to extend the application deadline for an alternative school, which had already passed, until April 28 to provide 4 Wing with enough time to come up with a proposal.
After submitting the proposal the board has 60 days to decide whether or not to proceed.
“We're hoping that they'll give us a fast turnaround with their decision,” Meszaros said.
If the proposal is denied by the board, 4 Wing plans to submit a proposal to the provincial government for a charter school.
Meszaros said support on the base to keep the school open has been overwhelming. Col. Wheeler and supporters held two town hall meetings on the base last week to rally support for keeping the school open.
“Members of the military are part of the community, but we're also our own community as well,” Ingram said.
“There's a certain sense of family at the school that you develop with the children that have parents in the military. I think that's really going to be missed if all the kids end up being bused off the base to city schools.”
The R.A. Reynolds parent advisory council sent a letter to the board March 30 to express its displeasure with the decision to remove a new school from the capital plan.
“This recent decision to remove the building of a new school on Base from your capital plan truly undermines our faith in the board of trustees' understanding and commitment to meet the unique needs of military families,” the letter said.
The letter also criticized the lack of community consultation prior to the removal of the school from the board's capital plan.
Board chair Walter Hrycauk said “the reason (for removing R.A. Reynolds) was to send a message to government that our number one capital project is the Lac La Biche multiplex. We didn't want confusion relative to our capital plan because there were people saying our capital plan was cloudy and confusing.”
Hrycauk said although the board has 60 days to make a decision on the alternative program, he didn't think it would take that long.