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Thursday , 22 April 2021
Cold Lake High School, left, Nelson Heights Middle School, right. Images: Northern Lights.

NLPS changing what grades are offered at Cold Lake public schools

Cold Lake public schools will look different in the years to come.

At last week’s Northern Lights school board meeting, the recommendations to alleviate some of the growing pressures of increasing student body counts from the Cold Lake Configuration Committee were approved.

The option chosen will see North Star Elementary become a Kindergarten to Grade 6 school (currently K to 3), Cold Lake Elementary will become a Kindergarten to Grade 3 school (currently K to 4), Nelson Heights will become a Grade 4 to 6 school (currently 5 to 8), Cold Lake Middle School will become a Grade 7 to 9 school (currently 4 to 8), Cold Lake High will become a Grade 10-12 school (currently 9 to 12), and Art Smith Aviation Academy will retain its current Kindergarten to Grade 8 configuration, as long as enrolments do not exceed the capacity of the school, NLPS says.

“When we seek engagement and people participate, we want to honour the wisdom of the community,” said Board Chair Arlene Hrynyk in a press release following the approval of the recommendation made by the committee.

“The committee put a tremendous amount of work into developing options and consulting with the community and we would like to thank them for their contribution and their commitment to our students.”

Changes won’t begin overnight though.

The transition from the current layout of the Cold Lake schools to the configuration outlined in the Multi-Configuration scenario will take place over the next three years, with full implementation expected at the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

NLPS administration will start developing a detailed transition plan, including timelines for shifting students and staff between schools and completing any renovations that are needed to accommodate the changes being made.

“The immediate thing will be if there are any changes that we need to make for September to either address a pressure point–so a school that we know is going to be overcrowded as early as September so we might need to make an adjustment–or to look at where it maybe makes sense for students to stay at their current school this year instead of moving on to the school they normally would,” said communications officer Nicole Garner.

“One of the things we would look at is, do the grade threes that are there this year just stay at North Star for Grade 4 or do they move on to Cold Lake Middle School for Grade 4 and then if we move them to Cold Lake Middle School for Grade 4, do they potentially have to move back to North Star for five and six or would they stay at Cold Lake Middle School,” she said.

They hope to have a plan back to the board in June which will discuss any changes that will need to be made for the start of next school year.

“The goal of our transition plan will be to minimize the disruption to students and staff and avoid students having to move multiple times between schools,” said Secretary-Treasurer Paula Elock in a press release.

“We will also be consulting with families at some schools about the timing of some of the transitions that need to be made and what will work best for students.”

Changes could mean some students remaining at their current schools for an additional year or renovations being done at some sites over the summer.

In November 2020, the configuration committee held virtual meetings with parents and stakeholders to get their feedback on three options.

The committee was formed a year prior to that after projections showed the schools will be at or over capacity by 2023.

About Michael Menzies

Menzies is the editor-at-large for Connected Media Inc. Born and raised in Vermilion, he started in May 2018 during his NAIT Radio and Television practicum and reports on local politics, sports, and community issues. He became the Bonnyville Pontiacs play-by-play voice during the 2019-20 season. He also comments on provincial and national issues. Menzies hosts Connected! Evening Monday-Thursday at 5 o’clock. He also likes to buy books and read some of them.