Elizabeth Rummel School in Canmore on Saturday (Feb. 24).Jungmin Ham/Rocky Mountain Outlook

The 2024-25 school year marks the return of Grade 4 to Elizabeth Rummel School (ERS).

Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) is moving the grade level from Lawrence Grassi Middle School (LGMS) to the elementary school, which will once again serve Kindergarten to Grade 4 over a decade after it was moved in 2013.

“Historically, those Grade 4s were always at Elizabeth Rummel. We needed to move them 11 years ago because the school wing was in need of extensive repairs from flooring to the HVAC system, to the roof – everything,” said CRPS superintendent Chris MacPhee.

“Since that time period, all of that work has been conducted. So now it’s put us in a position where we can bring those students back.”

It was determined the grade would shift schools following a March 2013 school board meeting, which also saw six portables close at the elementary school for a cost savings of around $28,000 per year.

The decision was based on utilities, capital and maintenance costs, as well as transportation implications, grade cohort numbers and declining enrolment.

Deputy superintendent Debbie McKibbin said the choice to move the grade back to the elementary school in 2024-25 was a “pedagogical decision, not a space decision.”

She noted this year’s Grade 3 class was in Kindergarten in 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowing the class to stay at the school year will give those students whose learning was interrupted another year to grow “socially, emotionally and academically.”

It also allows Grade 4 students in the after-school care program to access the program in-school instead of previously having to travel to ERS from LGMS.

A CRPS press release announcing the grade change noted it would further alleviate space constraints at LGMS. MacPhee assured, however, that there is room at both schools and said the school division is better situated than most in the province in terms of capacity and average class size.

During CRPS’ 2023-24 budget discussions, it was estimated the school division would have 1,911 students in Grades 1-12, including 41 students with severe disabilities and 136 students with moderate disabilities. The enrolled class size was estimated around 19 students for Kindergarten to Grade 6, 21 students for Grade 7-9 and 20 students for Grade 10-12. That was with the budgeted addition of about 17 full-time equivalent and 16 school-based support staff.

In comparison, a report on class size from the Edmonton Public School Board last school year reported its largest elementary core subject class had 36 students, including an average of 3.5 special needs and 7.5 ESL students. Junior high and high school core classes, at maximum, had 46 students enrolled in a core class.

The report also showed that average elementary class sizes had grown by 7.5 per cent over the previous two years and secondary classes grew by nearly 5 per cent. Overall, CRPS’ 2023-24 budget forecasted a 1.7 per cent decrease in enrolment.

“CRPS has class sizes that are probably the best in the entire province. Seeing the number that have been coming out recently in the news, we don’t have those constraints within our school division,” said MacPhee.

This is partially due to less enrolment pressures compared to other growing urban and suburban centres, but also likely to the lack of housing and high cost of living in Canmore and Banff, he noted.

“Because of that, that is a reason why our enrolment is probably static.”

MacPhee said he looks forward to welcoming Grade 4 students to ERS next fall. LGMS will revert to Grades 5-8 beginning in 2024-25.

“We’re excited that the [current Grade 3 class] is going to be staying with the school and there’s a lot of wonderful opportunities between the two schools now that we’re going to start engaging more heavily between them.”

By Jessica Lee, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 06, 2024 at 14:47

This item reprinted with permission from   Rocky Mountain Outlook   Canmore, Alberta

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