ST. PAUL – The resignation of former St. Paul Education board chair Heather Starosielski in late August that left Ward D vacant will not result in a by-election.
Following Starosielksi’s resignation, Trustee Sylvie Smyl was named as the new board chair during an organizational meeting held, just prior to the school year beginning. Last Wednesday, the school board decided not to hold a by-election to fill the vacancy left by Starosielski.
“We can handle the responsibility,” said Ward A Trustee Darcy Younghans, stating a by-election “at this time” is not necessary. The rest of the trustees agreed and stated there is no need to spend the money that would be required to hold a by-election.
The board discussed how to juggle Ward D responsibilities and agreed the board can continue to function effectively with five trustees. Younghans, who is also the vice-chair, said the three trustees in the St. Paul area can work together and share the responsibility, travelling to Ashmont and Mallaig as required. St. Paul-area trustees include Smyl, Lorette Andersen of Ward C, and Dwight Wiebe of the Glen Avon Ward.
Wiebe agreed with the idea, stating, “We just need to figure out what our schedules already are, as far as what we already have, and go from there.” He suggested the three trustees can work in rotation.
There has been an increase in demand for in-town busing in the Town of St. Paul, according to Secretary-Treasurer Jean Champagne. He said there are approximately 30 students on a waiting list and, “we’re looking at options to best accommodate them.”
Champagne said there are a few of options available, including adding another route, which will add approximately $27,000 in annual costs. The annual revenue from running a bus is $19,250, which is not enough to cover the costs, explained to Champagne.
The other option is the possibility of doing a dual run, which could be a cheaper option. “We don’t have all the details yet, but that is something we’d like to explore,” he said.
The board agreed and directed administration to explore the potential of doing a dual run. A double run would include one bus running twice to pick up students for various schools.
“I’m hoping that it’ll work out and that it’ll be the most financial responsible thing to do,” said Wiebe.
Peter Barron, superintendent for St. Paul Education, said that as of Sept. 14, there is a significant increase of enrolments in a few schools within the St. Paul Education region, specifically at Two Hills Mennonite School, Ashmont School, and Mallaig School.
Most schools are a bit lower than expected, he said, specifically Heinsburg School, which saw a decrease due to challenges with busing at the beginning of the school year.
“We’re hoping that once the busing issues are resolved, then that enrolment will come back up,” said Barron.
After the meeting, Champagne provided information to Lakeland This Week that showed the overall projected reduction of enrolment is 91 students, and early numbers indicate the actual number is about 40 students, “so a little better than projected.”
He added, enrolment is “still down from last year, but better than expected.”
“There can be some changes between now and the end of the month, so we prefer to wait until then to formally report on the official numbers by school,” stated Champagne.