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Elk Point Chamber seeks further clarification on outreach school changes


ELK POINT - The Elk Point & District Chamber of Commerce made another bid to keep the status quo at the Elk Point Outreach School, following a move by St. Paul Education to relocate the program to F.G. Miller School.

Last month, the SPERD board of trustees voted to close Horizons Outreach School, located in St. Paul, and relocate Elk Point Outreach School (EPOS) to the nearby high school, effective for the 2020/21 school year.

On Wednesday, Terri Hampson with the Elk Point & District Chamber of Commerce attended the online St. Paul Education Regional Division board meeting as a delegation. She presented a list of questions to the school division, seeking further clarification on items such as costs associated with moving the program to F.G. Miller, attendance, and funding.

When answering Hampson's questions, Superintendent Glen Brodziak affirmed that he had "full confidence" in the staff who will be moving over with the program. He also clarified that he saw the change as a relocation of a program, not a closure of EPOS. The motion made last month keeps the program running for at least two more years. Brodziak noted that right now, the division is unsure of its plans beyond those two years.

Brodziak also noted there won't be any costs associated with retrofitting F.G. Miller to house the EPOS students. Extra furniture from the current school's location will be sold, and those funds will be put toward the outreach program.

Hampson also asked about a preschool program that is being offered in Mallaig, and questioned if there was funding being directed to that program. SPERD administration clarified that a line in the budget for Pre-K funding is for Program Unit Funding (PUF), which is for young students who require early intervention.

The preschool that might be offered in Mallaig is being done as a pilot project, and is subject to interest. Board Chair Heather Starosielski noted that parents are charged fees for their children attend the preschool. According to information from SPERD, the cost to register a child for the Mallaig pilot program is $750.

"It's planning for the future," said Starosielski, speaking about the preschool. The board and administration affirmed there was no money being taken from K-12 education to support a preschool.

When responding to Hampson's questions, Brodziak thanked her for attending the meeting, noting that while he was aware of some conversations happening on social media regarding the topic, he personally does not engage in online discussions since he believes it "bears little fruit."

He said that while his original recommendation to the board would have resulted in a staffing change from a full-time position for EPOS to a part-time position during the transition period next year, he changed that recommendation after hearing from concerned parents. The position will remain as full-time for the 2020/21 school year.

Brodziak offered an example of the impact that running the outreach school at a continued deficit could have on other areas. He noted that at Elk Point Elementary, there is estimated to be 28 students enrolled in Grade 1 next year. "I don't think 28 (students) in Grade 1 is the way to go," he said, adding, that class will be split in two, which means a second teacher will be needed.

He also noted that while there was talk of financial contributions and free rent for EPOS, there wasn't a firm commitment of funding from the Town of Elk Point or the Elks after the public meeting was held. Only the Chamber of Commerce had offered a commitment in writing.

The board and administration thanked Hampson for attending the meeting on Wednesday. No motions related to the outreach school were made during Wednesday's board meeting.

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.
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