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Alberta Education Minister visits schools at Barrhead, Westlock

Adriana LaGrange also discussed PUF, new curriculum with Pembina Hills trustees at regional office

BARRHEAD/WESTLOCK –The students and staff at Barrhead Elementary School and Westlock Elementary School received a special visitor on June 24 as Alberta Minister of Education Adriana LaGrange toured both facilities, as well as the Pibroch Colony School north of Westlock. 

Accompanied by Athabasca-Barrhead-Westlock MLA Glenn van Dijken and some assistants, LaGrange visited Barrhead Elementary School in the morning and then sat down for a meeting with Pembina Hills School Division trustees at the regional office. 

She then headed over to Westlock to tour the elementary school before heading up Highway 44 to the Hutterite colony at Pibroch. 

At both elementary schools, LaGrange visited individual classrooms to speak with students about her role as Minister of Education and why she entered politics. Students also had some non-political questions for her, like whether she cheered for the Edmonton Oilers or Calgary Flames. 

She told the Grade 6 class at Westlock that she had made an effort to visit every school division in Alberta, with Pembina Hills being the last one. 

LaGrange also sat down to read a story to the Grade 2 students at Barrhead and the Kindergarten class at Westlock. 

The Barrhead Leader was unable to sit in on the meeting between LaGrange and Pembina Hills trustees, but board chair Judy Lefebvre indicated that they breached a variety of topics, though nothing really specific to Pembina Hills. 

“It was quite general,” Lefebvre said. 

For instance, Lefebvre said the trustees asked LaGrange if she had any major plans for her next couple of terms that would specifically affect rural school divisions. LaGrange pointed out that the province will be collaborating with the federal government on a major project to provide Internet access to rural schools.

(Back in March, the Alberta government announced it would provide $240 million to expand broadband access to rural Alberta. The federal govenrment later announced it would provide another $240 million in matching funds for the project.)

Transportation was also brought up, though the province had recently addressed Pembina Hills' concern over fuel prices by reinstating the Fuel Price Contingency Program. 

Lefebvre said trustees also asked LaGrange about reinstating Program Unit Funding (PUF) for Kindergarten students who require supports, though they never received a definitive answer. 

They also brought up the topic of addressing learning gaps for Grade 5-6 students as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, as Lefebvre noted the province has provided extra resources to assist Grade 1-4 students but has not done anything for older students. 

Finally, Lefebvre said she asked LaGrange about the timeline for introducing curriculum for older students, though again, she did not receive a definitive answer beyond LaGrange’s assurance that they have people working on it. 

LaGrange also stated that 45 school divisions have expressed interest in piloting updated draft K-6 curriculum in several subjects starting in the fall of 2022, but she did not say how many school divisions had actually committed to doing so.

Kevin Berger, TownandCountryToday.com