A new initiative being proposed by the Beautiful Plains School Division has the potential to give Neepawa parents the same option given to rural parents – a choice of schools supported by bus transportation.
The Division's Board of Trustees has committed to running a bus from Neepawa to J.M. Young or Brookdale Schools if 20 or more students fill out Choice of School Applications to attend those schools.
Applications need to be submitted by May 15, and the decision would be subject to the province agreeing to provide the transportation support.
A public information meeting for any parents interested, or wanting more background on the idea, is being held next Monday, Feb. 3 at 7 p.m. in the Neepawa Public Library's multi-purpose room (the building's east entrance).
For Brookdale School's parent council, the bus proposal is a much-welcome concept.
“We have had a declining enrolment over the past few years and we believe there are people in Neepawa who are interested in their children attending a smaller school,” Brookdale Parent Council member Becky Szucki explained. “We believe the transportation piece will be a positive for those parents.”
There are certain educational experiences both smaller and larger schools are able to offer students.
For a school like Brookdale's, Szucki noted one of the big advantages is more one-on-one time with teachers. The Kindergarten to Grade 8 school currently has 21 students and two full-time teachers, as well as one part-time teacher.
The school also offers different activity excursions such as trips to the Sportsplex and weekly hot lunches.
“This will maybe be something that is an option for parents whose children are struggling with the large school environment, as well,” Szucki pointed out. “The big thing is just giving parents that option, and we're happy the Division has been working with us on that.”
Offering the bus option to Eden and Brookdale is also a way for the Division to potentially lessen the enrolment crunch at both HMK and NACI.
Those schools have seen significant enrolment jumps in the past five years, leading to two portable classrooms being added at both schools. That being said, BPSD superintendent Jason Young noted, the Division is currently comfortable with the enrolment distribution at its Neepawa schools – this new initiative is simply about giving parents more educational options.
“The division is anticipating our numbers will continue to grow over the next two or three years and we are making a conscious effort to be proactive and explore all our options that may alleviate some of our future space challenges,” Young said. “The first step was when we moved our Grade 6 students to Neepawa Collegiate, this opened up some space at HMK where our biggest space challenge was.”
“We have additional space at Brookdale and Eden schools and the board is open to looking at Choice of Schools for students who may choose to go to either of these two smaller schools.”
Both the Brookdale Parent Council and Division representatives will be at the meeting being held next Monday.
“It's just an opportunity to formally explain the idea to those who come,” Szucki noted. “You don't have to commit that night, but it might help give us a feel for the interest prior to the Division's budget deliberations in February, too.”