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SPERD board expresses frustration with no progress on school parking lot

Ongoing capital projects still ongoing

ST. PAUL - St. Paul Education Regional Division board members expressed frustration with the ongoing delays to the completion of the parking lot at the Ashmont school during the Aug. 26 board meeting. 

Trustees and administrative staff agreed the lack of progress since last year is disappointing after the construction of the area was halted by Alberta Infrastructure due to issues with the contractor involved in the work. 

The work should have been completed last summer and a second season has now passed with no progress being made, except the installation of parking lot lights in the area, secretary-treasurer Jean Champagne informed the board. 

“Now we’ve got back to school. We’re trying to get more distancing and we don’t have a parking lot . . . no place for staff to park. It’s very, very frustrating that it hasn’t moved along quicker. We understand there are some legal issues there but, nevertheless, there has to be resolution – we hate to lose another season.” 

Board chair Heather Starosielski handed the reins of the meeting over to vice-chair Justin Anderson in order for her to make a motion supported by all trustees to send a letter to the ministers of Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure and the MLA in hopes of triggering some kind of response. 

“Maybe they need to see the kids actually trying to navigate the site. It’s challenging and that was pre-COVID. Wait until there’s grader banks and try to create areas where kids can safely get picked up and dropped off,” she said. 

Two Hills Mennonite School 

The capital projects progress list addressed by Champagne included an update on the Two Hills Mennonite School. He said on that front at least there has been some progress made with railings 80 per cent complete, the swale being completed and while there are still some landscaping deficiencies, he’s hopeful everything will be completed before the season changes. 

On a separate matter, Starosielski said a request from the division to Alberta Education to use some funds from a grant received for the playground at Ashmont School for the playground at the Two Hills Mennonite School was denied. The department cited the Two Hills school did not meet the criteria for funding under the Education playground grant and instead encouraged the board to pursue a different funding option for the Two Hills project. 

“It was disappointing. It is a subject I have discussed with our local MLA Jackie Homeniuk several times,” Trustee Ruven Rajoo noted. “My understanding is she will be looking into this again for us. She has been quite an advocate for the Two Hills Mennonite School with regards to additional funding so I’m sure, if anyone can deliver this, it will be her.” 

Starosielski the grant received for Ashmont school was very welcomed and unforeseen. 

“It just would have been nice to have some autonomy over the use of the funds to ensure that we could direct in a few different areas because we also had concerns with Mallaig School needing some replacement structures that are really quite dated.” 

Fee collection delayed 

The board agreed to delay the collection of school student fees until November when it is hoped there will be a better grasp of how things will move forward through the school year. 

“Given all the current uncertainties around COVID-19, St. Paul Education will not be collecting student fees at this time. Please note this does not apply to the Town of St. Paul busing fees or hot lunch and milk programs. All fees will be reviewed early in November and we will provide an update at that time,” the division announced following the board’s decision. 

Superintendent Glen Brodziak said in considering the “multitudes of different fees” and what may or may not change in regard to Alberta Health directives, administration would prefer to bring it back in a couple of months’ time 

“I really would like to see how things pan out in the first couple of months. I think that’s going to give us at least a little bit of a better picture of how things may proceed.” Trustee Dwight Wiebe agreed. 

Board fees 

The board spent some time deliberating the fee schedule for trustees given the changes brought about by the pandemic in terms of travel and meeting participation.  

According to Champagne who provided the final fee schedule to Lakeland This Week following the meeting, the fees have remained essentially unchanged expect for an increase to the extraordinary conference call/online rate which increased to $35 from $25. 

“Note that since COVID, there is virtually no out of district travel or honorariums as most meetings are conducted online.”  

Trustee remuneration schedule effective Sept. 1, 2020:  

  • per diem honorarium rate of $182; 
  • lodging/meals: flat rate of $225/day when staying overnight; 
  • meal allowance: $11/breakfast, $14/lunch, $21/supper; 
  • travel at $0.52/km;  
  • regular and special meetings: $172/trustees; $227 chair; 
  • life insurance coverage: $25,000 basic plus $25,000 blanket coverage; 
  • participation in the ASEBP health plan at the rate of 100%; 
  • annual health spending/wellness account of $725 
  • communication allowance: $175 month and $200 chair;  
  • community service allowance: 
  • $550 per month per Trustee  
  • $608 per month for the Vice-chair 
  •  $666 per month for the Chair 
  • Trustees in wards C, B, A & F will receive an annual allowance of $600/year as compensation for travel time to meetings and schools.  
  • Trustees may claim an additional regular meeting allowance when they attend more than one meeting in a day provided that the total combined duration is more than five hours.  
  • Trustees may claim $35 for extraordinary conference calls or virtual meetings lasting more than 30 minutes. 
  • Trustees may claim $50 per evening as an accommodation allowance if they use accommodations other than a hotel.