By Jordie Dwyer
Citing their own hard economic situation combined with a number of cost concerns, Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) has decided it will not absorb an area independent school into its fold.
Earlier this year, the independently operated Rimbey Christian School put forward a request to become part of Wolf Creek as an alternative education opportunity. As a result, WCPS administration undertook a comprehensive review of the school –which included taking a look at everything from its financial situation to bussing, staffing and the building.
That review was completed and presented to the WCPS board of trustees at its meeting on Feb. 18, when the board went with the recommendation of superintendent Larry Jacobs to not go forward with taking on the school at this time.
Along with WCPS currently in the midst of attempting to solve its own deficit of more than $2 million, Jacobs concluded they would need to significantly subsidize the operation of Rimbey Christian as well as inject a large amount of funds for a number of upgrades.
“Their special needs area is underfunded, we would need to extend our educational psychologist to include them, they need upgrades in staff training especially on inclusion of special needs students into the regular classroom,” Jacobs told the board.
“The staff are paid on a different grid than our current staff so we would need to work directly with them on making the necessary adjustments. Also right now, they don’t pay for bussing and we provide it for free. They couldn’t afford a transportation infrastructure, so that would need to be accommodated.”
In addition, Jacobs explained the technology in the school is extremely out of date and would mean significant spending to replace the entire system plus install new access points for the Internet; as well, there would need to be something worked out for use of a gymnasium as the school doesn’t have one.
The building is also in need of new windows, has no phone infrastructure like WCPS schools and a number of other maintenance work equipment since that work has so far been done on a purely volunteer basis.
“The facility is in need of a lot of work and their overall budget is only about $800,000, so that means parents and volunteers have been subsidizing it a lot,” said Jacobs.
“There is no upside for the board and in the short term, you would be on the hook for a considerable amount of money.”
Trustee Bob Huff was not enamoured with the thought in the first place and the review just cemented his belief.
“It’s in competition with our current schools in Rimbey and I’m not sure it would even survive.”
Another trustee, Barb Walker, added that it isn’t prudent or a good choice for WCPS to take on another small school at this time.
Trustees then approved a motion to reaffirm they remain with the status quo compliment of schools for the next school year.