The local school boards have no desire to pilot the Alberta K-6 curriculum draft in its current form.
This week the board of trustees for both Grande Prairie and District Catholic Schools and the Grande Prairie Public School Division voted not to incorporate the proposed curriculum in their schools.
“I think it was a composite of a lot of different factors with COVID and the stresses that people have been experiencing this year and a learning gap that has been created,” John Lehners, chair of the public school board said while noting several issues went into the decision. “Obviously, there are some concerns about how effective the new curriculum would be. It was just a lot of different things adding up, and it became a little bit overwhelming, so I think the board said, ‘ You know what? (We) think we are going to try and take a different route and try and participate in a solution’ but piloting it right now was just not something we had the manpower or ability to do.”
Jessie Shirley, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching & Learning, provided the Catholic school board with a detailed summary on the 600-page document dealing with the new curriculum.
“It was so professionally done, and she looked at everything,”said Mike Ouellette, chair of the Catholic school board. “There were certain things in the curriculum that we couldn’t support.
“Also, the number of calls that we received from parents, calls and emails was extreme. It was one of the biggest issues. The board looked at it, listened, read all 600 pages, as best as you can, and it was a unanimous decision not to move forward piloting this project.”
Ouellette said the government has to do some more work in developing a new curriculum, including more in-depth consulting and earlier introduction of First Nations’ materials.
“We want to see the government having more impact from their stakeholders and the teachers who have to teach these children,” the Catholic board chair added. “It doesn’t matter who is on the panel. If they’re not in the classroom, they are missing that input.”
Ouellette added the draft curriculum resulted in high public engagement.
“The most calls and emails I have ever received was on this subject,” Ouellette said. “We are the elected officials and have to respond. It is not just like they were all saying or sending emails saying this is stupid. They, the parents, were very well informed.”
Lehners echoed the feedback from constituents was high.
“I have been on the board for probably 20 years, and this has probably been the most active campaign, or most passionate I’ve seen from parents about a topic of education,” Lehners said. “That’s good. The message was pretty loud and clear that they didn’t want to see our board pilot this, and we do get elected by the people (who wrote and called). It is hard not to hear at least what they have to say, try to make sense of the whole issue, and so that is what we did.”
The matter is up for discussion at Peace Wapiti Public School Division.
Earlier in April, Conseil scolaire du Nord-Ouest, the school division Ecole Nouvelle Frontière is governed by, became the first in the region to proclaim it would not participate in the pilot project.