ATHABASCA – Aspen View Public Schools' implementation of the new curriculum for early elementary grades is in good hands, says Supt. Neil O’Shea.
O’Shea formally introduced the school division’s new associate supt. of curriculum and technology, Katherine Mann, to the board of trustees at their Sept. 8 meeting, the first of the new school year. Mann gave her first report to the board in her new position after coming over from Parkland School Division where she was the director of educational services.
“She brings with her expertise in the area of curriculum, curriculum implementation. She's a data driven person. She also has a keen interest in assurance planning, educational planning and using data to support the direction of the board,” O’Shea said before handing it over to Mann. “Our administrators have really embraced Katherine already in a short period of time and have quickly developed a respect for her based off of her competence and confidence.”
Mann gave an overview of the changes put in place by the Alberta government for K-3 students as well as a timeline.
“This year we're currently required to implement K-3 English language arts and literature, K-3 mathematics and K-6 physical education and wellness, which is a slight shift from the previous iteration of the curriculum where physical education and health are two separate subjects and now they are combined into one subject area,” she told the board.
For the 2023-24 school year changes to the Grades 4-6 language arts and math curriculum will have to be adopted along with further changes coming in fine arts, science and French immersion language arts for K-3. In 2024-25, Grades 4-6 will also take on changes in those subjects, along with changes to the social studies curriculum which will affect K-6.
The division is organizing three professional development workshops throughout the school year, mostly focused on language arts and math.
“The sessions that we have planned, we'll be looking at both resources and having some time to dig in. It's one thing to have a resource, it's another thing to have somebody guide you through and make sure that you know how to use it, and then just good pedagogy is part of that process,” said Mann.
Further to that, the division has hired a part-time literacy lead, reallocating funds from another area; has positions in the schools to help make sure the transition goes smoothly; and there is an administrative team in place with background in the area, she said.
Trustee Dennis MacNeil wanted to make sure resources are currently available to teachers and was assured they all have access to a shared drive that is full of resources. He also asked what trustees could do in their capacity to make for an easy transition for staff.
Mann noted she appreciated the government delaying the implementation of further subjects for K-3 this year, saying it gave school divisions “room to breathe” but added if implementation proceeds as planned for next year, it will be a “heavy year”.
Later, O’Shea added to Mann’s response saying further advocacy regarding slowing down the coming implementation for September 2023 may be helpful as it seemed to work last time.
Trustee Donna Cherniwchan asked if recently adopted learning resources would still be relevant under the new curriculum. Mann assured they would, adding a few more resources had to be purchased, but previous resources will still be used.
Trustee April Bauer asked if Mann had any further information on the social studies curriculum changes, which she called the most politically charged, but Mann said other than what has already been publicly released, she didn’t have any more information.
The initial changes suggested by the government were met with harsh criticism and were taken off the table, to be replaced with a new draft after further consultations.
Later in the meeting, during a discussion about topics to discuss at an upcoming meeting with Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, curriculum resources were high on the list for trustees, along with rural sustainability and the province’s fuel contingency program.