Skip to content

Community members concerned about Glendon School

Parents at Glendon School have expressed concerns about enrolment and the progress of the Green and G.O.L.D. project, among other issues. The school division says enrolment is on par with other small rural schools, and the track and field project is now complete.

GLENDON - Concerns regarding dropping enrolment and progress around the construction of a track and field project at Glendon School are being voiced by community members and parents of students at the school.

Lorena Hagen is the chair of the Glendon School Council. While speaking with Lakeland This Week, Hagen noted a strong concern regarding the construction of the Green and G.O.L.D. (Glendon Outdoor Leisure Development) Project, which officially began with a groundbreaking ceremony in June of 2019.

She noted that, as far as she knew, the outdoor track and field facility was still not done - despite the best efforts of the parent-lead school council to be involved and help where they could.

In the spring of 2022, for example, the Village of Glendon offered up some of its green space and created an area where students could practice track and field events, due to what Hagen described as “the extras” not being complete at the track and field space - referring to events such as shot put and long jump, for example.

While the start of the project goes back to a previous school council that was successful in achieving a grant, the current council has been involved in helping fundraise to help pay the remaining amount owing on the project - which initially was $35,000, according to Hagen, who became chair in 2020.

She said that amount felt doable and she had no issues with working toward fundraising the amount needed. Then, she was handed a bill for $141,000 from Northern Lights Public School Division (NLPS) with no breakdown or explanation as to why the amount had increased so drastically. The school council has not paid the bill.

At one point, a large portion of the school yard was fenced off as work on the track and field grounds took place. Students were not allowed on the area until the grass was cut three times. Then, Hagen says the school division made the school council agree that if damage was done on the track by students using the area, the council would not come back to the school division to repair the damage - to which Hagen says they agreed. 

Hagen also noted that at one point, the school council had secured a donation of sand to be brought for the project, but was told by the school division they could not do so. Now, the school division is telling the parent council they do need to supply the sand. 

At one point during the pandemic, there were some rocks that needed to be picked. So, Hagen found some volunteers willing to do the work, but the school division said they would have to remain six-feet apart, which Hagen says they agreed to. In the end, the work did not get done because the volunteers were told they could not do it, according to Hagen.

“Everything we tried to do... we were always shut down.”

Ultimately, Hagen feels there has been a severe lack of communication between the school division and those involved in the project. The Green and G.O.L.D. project wasn’t meant for just the school, but for the broader community and other surrounding schools to use also, affirms Hagen.

Lakeland This Week reached out to NLPS for an update on the Green and G.O.L.D Project. Nicole Garner, Communications and Public Relations Manager with Northern Lights Public Schools responded with information, via email.

The Green and G.O.L.D. Project “is an example of the school, parents and the community working together to provide students with access to opportunities that students at most rural schools do not have. There were some challenges in completing that project within the original time-frame, but we are excited that it is finally complete and accessible to not just our students, but the entire Glendon community,” according to Garner.

All of the work has now been completed at the track facility, confirmed Garner, adding, “We will be doing a final walk through soon to identify any deficiencies.”

The budget for the project was just over $1 million and is currently slightly under budget, according to NLPS.

As a parent to four children, three of whom still attend Glendon School, Hagen says she has other concerns. She says she personally knows of families who have not moved from the community, but have moved their children to schools outside of Glendon, and she wonders why that is.

Ultimately, she just wants the best for all students who attend Glendon School - and believes the school is a great place to send her children. 

“It’s for the kids. That’s what I’m about.”

Along with improving communication between administrators and parents, Hagen says there is also a request for more “transparency,” which is why a request to see the school’s budget was made. That request was approved, and Hagen believes progress is being made. 

Speaking to concerns that have been raised by parents, NLPS says the board is “always open to discussing concerns or issues of mutual interest with our municipal councils. Last summer (July 2021), the Village of Glendon had requested a meeting with the board. Unfortunately, with municipal and school board elections in the fall and all of the resulting changes that occurred, it took some time to set that up. The NLPS Board of Trustees had been scheduled to meet with the Glendon Council in May, but council indicated the meeting was no longer needed.”

Village and partners

On May 31, 2022, Village of Glendon Mayor Nicholas Werstiuk sent a letter to Northern Lights Public School Division stating that council has “received a number of complaints and concerns regarding the Glendon School.”

The letter further stated, “We are deeply concerned and implore you to get to the bottom of the issues, and save our school.” The village council also asked for an update on the Green and G.O.L.D. Project, saying, “To our knowledge, this space is still not being used to its full capacity.”

In the minutes from the June 22, 2022 NLPS board meeting, the school board acknowledged receiving the letter, and filed the correspondence as information, along with a list of other unrelated letters.

Lakeland This Week reached out to Werstiuk about the letter, and concerns that have been expressed in the community. 

In a statement provided to Lakeland This Week, Westiuk said, “Our Council is concerned with regards to the drop in enrolment at the Glendon School, as the school is a very important part of our community. We will work with the school division to keep the school in Glendon thriving. Any concerns regarding the school should be directed to the school or the division office administration.”

In information previously reported by Lakeland This Week, along with fundraising done by the school and the Glendon Parent Advisory Committee, the Village of Glendon had set aside $309,000 as their contribution to the project, and the MD of Bonnyville approved providing up to $500,000 for construction through their Legacy Fund late in 2018. 

Bonnyville-Cold Lake-St. Paul MLA David Hanson confirmed that he had been made aware of parent concerns at Glendon School. 

Hanson said he spoke to superintendent and board chair and “brought forward the parents' concerns," but noted that there is a protocol in place that has to be followed.

Enrolment concerns

Lakeland This Week also reached out to NLPS for information regarding enrolment at the K-12 school in Glendon.

Garner noted that “rural schools often face challenges with enrolment. Our rural communities also tend to be more sensitive to declines in enrolment as they can be impacted more acutely than our larger schools, which have more flexibility to respond to enrolment fluctuations... For our smaller schools, like Glendon, just one or two families leaving a community or choosing to attend a different school can result in the loss of multiple students, which then impacts funding and potentially programming.”

Garner noted that the economic downturn experienced in the region over the last few years can play into enrolment numbers.

“We see a tendency for enrolments to decline overall,” stated Garner. “We are aware that our rural schools are usually impacted first, however our rural schools don’t see a growth in enrolment right away when the economy starts to improve. Typically, our urban schools see an increase in enrolment first, and then we see our rural schools start to increase one to two years afterwards.”

Looking at long-term data, it appears there was a boom in the area, peaking around 2014/15, and enrolments at local schools went up, including Glendon School.

“The economic downturn and the pandemic have both negatively impacted our enrolment at the division level over the last few years. Enrolment has declined or remained relatively the same in all of our communities with the exception of Cold Lake, which has been experiencing steady growth,” explained Garner.

“Enrolment changes are also often simply a matter of having fewer or more students starting Kindergarten than the number of students who graduated the previous year. We have seen this occur at the division level when we have had a large cohort of Grade 12 students graduating and a much smaller cohort of Kindergarten students starting in the fall,” she further stated.

Glendon School has experienced a decline in enrolment, but it is consistent with what has been seen in other small rural schools, according to NLPS.

“In fact, some have experienced a slightly greater decline in enrolment than Glendon School has,” says Garner. 

According to the numbers, after dropping in 2018/19 and again in 2019/20, enrolment has remained relatively stable in 2020/21 when the school had 197 students, and in 2021/22 when the school had 199 students. NLPS projects that number to remain similar for 2022/23.

“Of course it is still very early in the school year so we don’t have firm numbers at this point,” says Garner.

NLPS says it is working with the school council to ensure there is a welcoming environment for families at the school, and will be discussing “programming and activities that may help to retain existing students and attract new families to the school.”

Janice Huser

About the Author: Janice Huser

Janice Huser has been with the St. Paul Journal since 2006. She is a graduate of the SAIT print media journalism program, is originally from St. Paul and has a passion for photography.
Read more