The Chinook School Division board will continue to operate with nine members and the vacant trustee position will remain unfilled until the end of the current term in November 2024.
Board members made the decision to leave the trustee position vacant at their regular monthly meeting, March 14.
A motion was approved by the meeting to request the Minister of Education to reduce the number of trustees from 10 to nine for the remainder of the current term ending November 2024.
Board Chair Kimberly Pridmore spoke after the meeting with the Prairie Post about their decision.
“Based on the point in the term that we’re at, with two years left, we realized that there is concern from the communities about the representation, but it is a temporary reduction right until the end of the term,” she said. “In that time, we’ll have some conversation about how our elections look for the next term and our commitment really is that we want to focus our time as the trustees to represent, to go out and reach out to those communities and really focus on supporting them as opposed to struggling to bring in a new trustee at a time when it’s difficult as a new board member to catch up with the board business.”
The board position became vacant in February after long-time school board trustee Dr. Shane Andrus submitted his resignation from the board due to his relocation. He served for nine years as trustee for Subdivision 1, which includes the communities of Burstall, Fox Valley and Leader in the northwest part of the school division.
The board wants to take time to review the representation for ratepayers and school communities in every subdivision.
“We just felt it was a good opportunity for us to just have a look at our current governance structure,” she said. “We feel it’s our obligation to be fiscally responsible and to be prudent when we have expenses we can avoid, coming into what is no doubt going to be a tough budget for us again. We thought it was the perception of hopefully the governance that we can be just responsible with our resources.”
She added that this review does not mean there will be any changes to the representation in every subdivision.
“Not necessarily need for changes, but we’ve just been through some very important work with our board policy handbook and really focusing on some board development and just our overall structure,” she explained. “So the resignation was just an opportunity for us to take more time with that.”
Pridmore emphasized any cost savings as a result of the vacant trustee position was not a key consideration when the board made this decision.
“It’s a side consequence that there will be a little bit of a savings,” she said. “But no, really we just wanted to focus on the representation that we could provide right now with the trustees that are here and then have a look at our overall governance structure in the next two years.”
It is a priority for the board to ensure that schools and school community councils in Burstall, Fox Valley, Leader and surrounding communities are fully supported until the next election of trustees in November 2024.
“That’s actually fairly close to my current location and between myself, the chair and the vice-chair and then the other closest located trustee we certainly plan to reach out this week and make sure they know that the support they need they’ll have,” she said.
Board approves termination of school bus collector stops in Herbert:
The Chinook Board of Education approved a motion during a regular board meeting on March 14 to accept a recommendation of the transportation committee that the school bus collector stops in Herbert is discontinued at the end of the current school year on June 30.
Pridmore said after the meeting that there has traditionally been some bus collector stops in Herbert for students living within the town.
“They’re not specific buses that just only transport students in town,” she explained. “They come from the rural pickups and then pick up on their way to the school.”
The review of these bus collector stops in Herbert was done because this practice is contrary to the procedures followed elsewhere in the school division.
“What it came down to for us is that there’s no other community that have collector pickups,” she said. “So it was another way we’re trying to be equitable across the division and keep things consistent. We felt that it was just a little bit of a double standard to have those collector stops for the kids in Herbert. Those three buses are all doing rural pickups now. That will continue, but we’ll put smaller buses out there likely and then students within the town will be walking to school.”
The termination of the school bus collector stops in Herbert means that buses of a smaller size can be used for the rural routes where they operate.
“They will be more related to the size of the buses travelling the routes,” she said. “The bigger buses take more fuel and we know the price of fuel is not going down anytime soon.”
The discontinuation of the school bus collector stops within the town limits will not result in any significant time saving for students travelling on these rural bus routes.
“It won’t cut off a lot of time, but it will cut off a few minutes of the driver’s time and the ride time of the kids at the beginning of the route,” she said. “While that’s a consideration, it really comes back to the goal of trying to be consistent and equitable.”