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Peace Wapiti School Division board votes to keep junior high status quo for Beaverlodge, Hythe students

It will be status quo next year for Beaverlodge junior high students in the Peace Wapiti School Division after the division’s board of trustees voted in favour of keeping the students at Hythe Regional School for grades seven, eight and nine.

Superintendent Bob Stewart says the conversation and public consultation regarding the junior high situation in Hythe and Beaverlodge stemmed from a letter, where the Beaverlodge School council asked students to attend junior high school in the community.

“We hired Dialogue Partners from Edmonton – and they engaged the community with in-person community engagement sessions in the Town of Beaverldoge and the community of Hythe, the community of Horse Lake,” Stewart says. “They had an online survey and collected well over 600 responses, – they took that information and created a report.”

The options put on the table during Thursday’s school division meeting included a three-year plan to move students from Hythe Regional School to Beaverlodge Elementary for students in grades seven and eight or Beaverlodge Regional High School for students in grade nine. The second option was to keep things as is, with the third option being to transition Beaverlodge students to schools in the community for the 2024-2025 school year, with grade sevens being sent to Beaverlodge Elementary and grade eight and nine students being sent to the regional high school.

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Before the school board trustees made their decision they debated and discussed the options presented, while also looking at the results of the public consultation report. Those who were in favour of the change mentioned bus and travel times for students, the benefits of students being educated in their community, along with schools and classes with smaller numbers being just as strong as the regional schools in the area. The trustees opposed to changing the schooling configuration talked about the increased possibilities the Hythe school has to offer with a larger number of students, how the regional school was renovated with the junior high students in mind, giving them recreation spaces specifically for their age group, along with the positive impact the school can have on students mental health with their being more opportunities to make friends and find their community.

When the vote came down the motion for the three-year transition plan, which would have started in the 2024 – 2025 school year was defeated by six to three with the motion for things to stay as is passed with the same vote.

Stewart says he expects now the decision has been made administration will be advised to look deeper into areas of concern, with bussing being a big one.

“That will mean we will have to work closely with our Grande Prairie Catholic School Division partners in how we can decrease that transfer time.”

During Thursday’s meeting, administration reported on average it takes 40 minutes a day total for students to commute from Beaverlodge to Hythe and back.

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