Holy Family meets with education minister

Holy Family Catholic Regional Division board met with the education minister Sept. 22. Front row, left-right, are High Prairie trustee Leanne Cox, Education Minister Adriana LaGrange, board chair Kelly Whalen. McLennan trustee Tom Henihan and Peace River – Nampa trustee John Kuran. Back row left-right, are Valleyview trustee John Michael Pozniak, Supt. Betty Turpin, Western Cree Tribal Council trustee Donna Duda and Manning – Fort Vermilion trustee Michael McConnell.

Richard Froese
South Peace News

More funding to support mental health for students in Catholic schools was discussed with the education minister.
Holy Family Catholic Regional Division board met with the Education Minister Adriana LaGrange on Sept. 22 to discuss the issue that escalated in the past two years with COVID-19.
“The COVID-19 pandemic underscored that more money is needed to support the mental health and well-being of our students,” says Kelly Whalen, who chairs the board.
“There is a clear need.
“We live in rural Alberta and it is no secret that access to health professionals and services in much more limited than it is in urban centres.”
He says LaGrange understands the concerns and request of the board.
“The minister explained that mental well-being is very important to all education partners and is under Alberta Health Services portfolio,” Whalen says.
The division hopes to receive a grant from the Mental Health in Schools Pilot program to help students in rural areas, he says.
Whalen says the board will continue to push for further funding, now that the provincial government under new Premier Danielle Smith.
“We will have to continue to bring this forward to all stakeholders, especially since a provincial election is coming in May 2023,” Whalen says.
The board also addressed costs of student busing.
“As a Catholic school district, we do use our sister public school divisions and contract their services to transport our students,” Whalen says.
“However, the funding isn’t consistent if the Catholic if the Catholic school student is not living in a formed area.
“So it ends up costing extra money to either the school division or the family to have the students bused to our schools as the funding does not presently fully follow the student.”
Holy Family wants more funding and support.
“Our request is to have the transportation funding follow the student as presently it does not follow the student equally for students in Catholic schools and public schools,” Whalen says.
He says LaGrange agreed it is a large area of opportunity for the provincial government.
“Many schools are funding large deficit situations with the increase cost of insurance and access to bus drivers that would fall within the new Mandatory Entry Level Training (MELT) program,” Whalen says.
The school division plans to continue to lobby and form more areas for Catholic students and the opportunity to have student transportation funded equally, he says.

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