Education minister rolls out 10-point plan
Promise is for new multi-purpose community schools
By: Susan Jones
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 11, 2012 06:00 am
Education Minister Thomas Lukaszuk has promised quick action on the new 10-point education plan he announced Tuesday in Edmonton.
The initiatives will be put in place immediately before the next legislative session in the spring.
“We won’t prioritize the list in any way. I expect all 10 points to be delivered forthwith,” Lukaszuk said.
The changes are the result of seven full-day community meetings held around the province between November 26 and December 9, which were attended by 1,130 Albertans. Five student forums were also held.
One of the most interesting ideas proposed by Lukaszuk is to build new multi-purpose centres that could also include medical centres and community halls.
The minister pointed out that in many areas facilities are usually housed in different buildings.
“You could walk from the school to the medical clinic.” he said. “You could walk to the library. You could walk to the community hall. When we build new schools we need to change the way we design them so they are community buildings that we can use all day long and all night long so that the facilities support the community in different ways.
“Imagine the synergy of such a building with schools and a nurse and doctor and other community resources instead of five independent buildings.”
As part of the new community-building plan that centres on schools, Lukaszuk also proposed building playgrounds along with the new facilities.
“We want our children to be active and healthy and it makes sense from now on to look at building playgrounds at the same time as we build schools. We will work with partners to do that,” he said.
Lukaszuk addressed concerns he has about bus-riding children attending schools in rural areas.
“There are students who ride on the bus for 45 minutes each way to and from school. That is unacceptable,” he said.
A trial will take place in one school division to find ways to alter bus routes or make them more efficient. But when routes cannot be changed because students live too far from their school, Lukaszuk proposed adding technology to those buses to allow children to make more efficient use of their time.
“Changes may involve collaboration between school boards for busing but when students are too far from the school maybe we could change the quality of their time on the bus,” he said.
The efficiency of high school and post-secondary programming was another area of concern.
“We want to create more opportunity for students to earn credits in high school and post-secondary programs at the same time,” Lukaszuk said.
At the other end of the schooling spectrum, Lukaszuk is considering introducing full-day kindergarten classes.
“We will look at providing full-day kindergarten, but we need to know from parents whether they want mandatory or optional kindergarten. We also need to figure out the infrastructure if we add an entire new grade to the schools,” he said.
The minister said he has already consulted with the federal government regarding aboriginal schooling, which he labelled as “sub-standard education.”
“We will support First Nations students by working more closely with the federal government. They deserve the best education and we can no longer categorize them as ‘on-reserve’ or ‘off-reserve’ children.
Lukaszuk promised to provide a stronger voice for parents through their school councils. He also wants to keep the public better informed about the education system and promised increased transparency and accountability among school boards.
Lukaszuk said he is reviewing the way results from provincial achievement tests are used.
“In order to create the best curriculum we have to know what is working in the classroom. We need to ensure those results are not misused,” he said.
As for what will happen in Morinville, Lukaszuk promised a solution will be coming within the next week.
The 10-point plan for education includes:
Reducing travel time for students who spend more than one hour on a bus and enabling students to better use technology when they travel.
Creating more opportunities for students to earn credits in high school and post-secondary at the same time.
Updating school design specifications to better support communities.
Co-ordinating building playgrounds and new schools.
Reducing the administrative burden for charter schools.
Supporting First Nations students by working more closely with the federal government.
Creating a stronger voice for parents in the education system.
Providing better information to increase the transparency, clarity and accountability of the education system.
Reviewing provincial achievement tests.
Examining the operational requirements of full-day kindergarten.