Looking at rural busing options

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A local principal has made some suggestions on how to improve attendance at rural schools.

Ardmore School principal Ken Pshyk asked the Northern Lights Public Schools (NLPS) board of trustees about offering busing to families in the dual-attendance zone to encourage more students to consider Ardmore.

When the school in Fort Kent closed, NLPS decided to make the hamlet a dual-attendance zone. That way, parents could choose to send their children to either Bonnyville or Ardmore.

“This decision came as a bit of a detriment to Ardmore School,” Pshyk said during a regular school board meeting on Wednesday, June 27.

Currently, 12 students from the dual-attendance zone go to Ardmore School, while 48 attend school in Bonnyville.

“What we’re asking for is to balance the school of choice and dual-attendance zones,” explained Pshyk. “We’re just asking for equal opportunity, and would love to see that if kids can come our way that they would come to our school.”

The bus would pick-up and drop-off the children at the same stop as the Bonnyville school bus.

NLPS board chair Arlene Hrynyk expressed the board’s interest in expanding transportation to smaller schools. Pshyk brought additional opportunities to the table. He suggested that Ardmore School offer a reduced pre-school program for young families, and out-of-school care at a reduced cost in order to encourage students to remain at Ardmore until Grade 9.

“That would be your opportunity to say you believe in small schools so much you’re going to even the playing field,” he noted.

Hrynyk thanked Pshyk for his concerns to ensure every child is given an equal opportunity to access education.

“You coming here with solutions on things we’ve been exploring for years… You’ve certainly given us some food for thought, and things we’re going to have a conversation as a board about,” said Hrynyk.

While Pshyk realized the bus option may not be viable for the board, he hopes one of his suggestions would help his school.

“I’m sharing these ideas to show we aren’t just asking for support, but we’re trying to come up with ideas to attract families to our school.”

Hrynyk suggested meeting with other rural schools in the division to see what kind of suggestions they would have regarding transit.

Pshyk encouraged NLPS to consider his recommendations to make rural schools a better choice for parents who leave the area to work, and to help schools like Ardmore grow.

NLPS will discuss the opportunities that could work for their schools, and hopes to talk about the issue further in the fall.

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