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Reconfiguration of NLPS Cold Lake schools on hold funding
Northern Lights Public Schools is putting their Cold Lake reconfiguration plans on hold. File Photo.

COLD LAKE – Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) has put the reconfiguration of their Cold Lake schools on hold.

Paula Elock, NLPS secretary-treasurer, told the board of trustees during their April 2 meeting the Cold Lake Reconfiguration Committee was in favour pausing the project for the timebeing.

“At our last committee meeting, we had hoped that our principals would have conversations with their staff and then right after the spring break we could start our public consultations. In light of everything that’s occurring, we’re just wanting to put that off,” she explained.

Although there were discussions about conducting the consultations remotely, Elock didn’t believe that was the best way to go.

“We just feel that it wouldn’t really do a service to the work that we’ve done as a committee if we tried to do it remotely,” she noted. “These kinds of conversations are often best handled with the opportunity for there to be face-to-face contact and conversations about the plan.”

Trustee Mandi Skogen agreed, “The reconfiguration conversations have done really well in person, and I don’t think anybody is going to be focusing on that, especially right now and in the near future.”

The other reason, Elock noted, is so there won't be a delay in sharing the information from when principals speak to their staff and the committee meets with parents.

“We don’t want them to have a conversation with their staff and then months later we have a conversation with the public. We want those two events to occur fairly close together so the information that everybody has is shared at the same time.”

The Cold Lake Reconfiguration Committee was formed in 2019 and was tasked with developing proposals to deal with the overpopulation in NLPS schools in the city. The division is projecting enrolment to jump from 2,434 in 2019/20 to 2,638 by the 2022/23 school year.

NLPS was prepared to present three possible solutions, with the potential for further consultations to be done in the future. Once feedback was gathered from stakeholders, a solution was going to be presented to the board for a final decision.

With the impact the coronavirus has had on the local economy, trustee Ron Young wasn’t sure enrolment would even still be an issue when students head back to the classrooms.

“I don’t think by the fall that we will be facing bulging classes. When it comes to reconfiguration, it might not be the crisis we think it is,” he said.

Superintendent Rick Cusson stated they will need to relook at their current numbers and projections.

“We do still have kids in the system that we’re going to have to balance two years from now in the high school, and we’ll definitely monitor it and if it’s something that we can hold back on we will.”

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle