The major turnover experienced by the Pembina Hills school board in the Oct. 18 election hasn’t left much time to discuss new projects or initiatives that the trustees wish to work on in the future, says board chair Judy Lefebvre.
On Jan. 6, the Barrhead Leader reached out to Lefebvre to discuss the province’s decision to re-open in-person classes for K-12 classes the following week. (For more on that story, see Page 1 of this week’s edition.)
However, we also asked if the board had given any consideration to any new projects or initiatives they wish to tackle in the future.
The old board of trustees, whose four-year term was marked by such developments as the closure of the Alberta Distance Learning Centre and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, had made it a priority review the division’s electoral boundaries.
That lengthy process kicked off in early 2020 and ended when the board ultimately approved a new map that included six electoral wards — three on the Barrhead side of the division and three on the Westlock side.
As well, the board had lobbied the province to consider eliminating the 90 kilometre per hour speed limit for school buses, which they must adhere to regardless of the posted speed limit on highways.
This change, incidentally, was endorsed by the majority of other jurisdictions in the Alberta School Boards Association back in 2019.
In accordance with the recommendations of a task force on school transportation, the province has committed to examine changing the 90-kilometre speed limit for school buses later in 2022.
However, most of the old Pembina Hills trustees had opted not to run again in the Oct. 18 municipal election, choosing either to retire or move out of the area.
Of the old board, only Lefebvre – who represents Pembina Hills West Ward 3 – opted to let her name stand again.
With most of the trustees still getting used to their new positions, Lefebvre noted that when they discussed board planning in November, she had indicated to the new trustees that this was the time to discuss tackling issues that the board has some governance over.
“By that time (board planning begins in the new few months), we should have gathered enough information about what’s going on in the division and where we need to see some changes,” Lefebvre said.
Of course, the division also has to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, which now poses a heightened threat with the spread of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
While cases remain relatively low in the Pembina Hills School Division, several thousand new cases of COVID-19 are now being identified throughout Alberta every day.
On Jan. 6, an update was posted to the Pembina Hills website detailing how new medical-grade masks and rapid tests provided by the province will be distributed to students and families.
“I think we’re well-prepared for everything, but this virus is unpredictable,” Lefebvre said.