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SUMMING IT UP: SD51 Board of Education

Erin Perkins
By Erin Perkins
February 19th, 2012

The regular monthly meeting of the Board of Education for School District 51 met at the School Board Office in Grand Forks on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

During the meeting, the board listened to a presentation about the new After School Sports Program, passed a policy on child protection and approved new district-wide regulations on the application of technologies by both students and staff.

After School Sports Program started this week

A unique sports initiative began in the Grand Forks this week. The After School Sports program is a $20,000 intiative that will run from now until the end of June. It is being supported by funds from the Ministry of Community Sport and Cultural Development and the 2010 Arts Legacy Fund.

Grand Forks was chosen because of local demographics.

“The good news is we were targeted but the reason we were targeted was because we had a number of high number of at-risk youth who the province felt didn’t have the opportunities to join organized sports programs and there were barriers in place specific to our community,” said Principal Ken Argue during a presentation to the school board on Tuesday, Feb. 14.

The program runs every Monday and Wednesday afternoon from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Hutton Elementary. They will also host a speciality sport activity one Friday a month between 3 and 6 p.m. The nine Grade 5 to 8 students are from either Hutton or Perley elementary schools.

Monday teaches sports in a non-threatening environment. The Wednesday program is targeting just Grade 5 to 8 girls and will feature activities like jazzercise and yoga to encourage postive body image and to inspire them to participate in future activities.

They will also be hiring about four high school students in Grade 11 and 12 who are considered positive role models in their school to help with the program.

Argue and his team hope to gradually increase the number of students involved to about 30. They also hope to get some extra funding from the community to offer snacks to the kids and to help with transportation issues the students may have with getting from Perley to Hutton.

New Child Protection Policy approved

The school district is now operating under a new child protection policy which provides direction to district staff when dealing with a child who they suspect is being neglected or abused.

At the meeting the board approved the new policy, but will be adding the interagency protocols, which includes a RCMP and a Ministry of Children and Families Agency Protocol agreement, later on. These agreements help coordinate how the district responds to different issues. Sometimes an issue of child protection can be criminal as in abuse while others, like neglect, are issues addressed by the ministry.

The Ministry of Education has asked all school districts to have a revised child protection policy in place. The old child protection policy for this district was felt to not meet today’s needs. SD51 said they would have one in place by January 2012, which they now do.

Norm Sabourin, president of he Boundary District Teachers’ Association, said the policy should be viewed with caution and enough training. He also expressed concern about neglect and how that can be interpreted.

Mac vs PC debate

A long term standardization of the computer operating systems in district schools will be developed by the board.

Right now most of the district computers operate on a windows operating system. However, each school has a mixed bag of MacIntosh (Apple) computers and Personal Computers (PCs). Most of the Apple computers can be found in the elementary schools and the PCs in the secondary schools.

The tech department has told the board that it would be more economical and efficient for the district to standardize all the enterprise computers in the district to be PCs, Strukoff said. Enterprise computers are lap tops and work stations not devices like tablets, which are also used within the district. Right now the district holds double licensing for the different program formats, which can be expensive.

“At the elementary level there are some mixed views about going that way. They feel the turn over will be a challenge and that there are better applications and software on the Apple side and the machines themselves are just better so we still have that debate on going,” said Strukoff.

IPads have also now made their way into the schools, said Stukoff. “That is not an enterprise based device but it has now intensified the conversation.”

The district hopes to come to a decision by June, when a series of new lap tops will need to be purchased for area teachers.

There is also the issue of long-term computer planning.

“Two years ago tablets were a non-issue,” said Strukoff. “And now the number of tablets that have come into our district is quite dramatic. What is it going to be like in two years? So, although we have budgeted for a computer lab, that may not be what is going to be happening when the time comes.”

“We are saving to address our technology needs and not lock ourselves in,” said board chair Teresa Rezansoff. “We need to be adaptable and flexible and educationally based. If we’re seeing excitement from our teachers and staff then we’ll see it in our students.”

Many districts across the province have been discussing standardization of their enterprise systems due to increased tech costs.

VOIP transition proceeding as planned

The Community Network initiative between the school district and the City of Grand Forks is proceeding on budget.

The initiative is to change all communication services within the school district and city into Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP). This system uses the internet to deliver phone calls, voice messages, fax and email. It uses bandwidth more efficiently and costs less to operate than traditional communication services.

To date, the system is operational in Christina Lake Elementary and the Technology Centre. The School Board office is next followed by Boundary Central Secondary School in Midway. There is also a training session this month for school and city staff who are affected by the change over.

It is too early to tell what the overall savings will be, but Michael Strukoff, superintendent of schools, said they’ve eliminated at $500 monthly phone bill from the VOIP installation for the Technology Centre.

Other tidbits

SD51 trustees will be taking their show on the road with a round the Boundary tour, Tuesday, Feb. 28, Wednesday, March 7 and Monday, March 12.

The board continues to explore social media as a way to communicate to parents. They would like to connect Facebook and Twitter, but feel that Facebook is the place most parents would use to get their information. The board also discussed how Facebook may be made accessible to students during lunch hour. Right now Facebook is blocked from all school computers and the wireless internet access.

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