The future of Prince of Peace Lutheran School is still undecided, as the Rocky View Schools (RVS) Board of Trustees continue to evaluate written and in-person submissions from community members and stakeholders regarding the school.
Since the initial decision on March 18 to proceed with the closure of the Conrich-based school after the termination of the school’s lease agreement was announced, effective August 5, 2022, the board has called for community input prior to making a final decision.
At an RVS board meeting on May 6, trustees heard delegations from Prince of Peace students, as well as a parent regarding a possible merging of Prince of Peace and Kathyrn School.
“It is through this engagement that we can hear from our community members and reflect on the differing perspectives of stakeholders as a way to make an informed decision for the board,” said RVS Board Chair Fiona Gilbert.
“We will take what we have heard here today [and] we will add it to the 300-plus written submissions that we have received over the last few weeks from other stakeholders and community members.”
During the presentation, Kate Culp, a parent and the chair of Kathyrn School Council, said she had questions about the potential consolidation of the two schools, and prompted the board for further consideration prior to making a decision.
“Kathyrn was brought up as perhaps an option as a building for the program,” Culp said. “At this point in time, I am neither in favour or opposed to another program such as a Christian program in our school, as I have so many questions and unknowns.”
Culp said her husband’s family has been farming in the Irricana area for more than 100 years, and they are both Kathyrn School graduates. She said her family has a real taste for the community and the school’s needs.
With low enrolment in recent years, she said Kathyrn School is actively trying to increase its number of students, which would make a merger with Prince of Peace beneficial.
“We are a very small school, [with] about 160 students, and that’s about roughly half capacity,” she said. “But as a parent, not every choice is necessarily the best choice to increase numbers.”
When parents, students, and staff are asked what they like about Kathyrn School, Culp said the most common answer is the sense of community and family within the building.
“That’s something that we want to maintain, no matter what the student population is,” she added.
According to Culp, welcoming Prince of Peace students into Kathyrn School could also mean more funding and opportunities for the school, such as expanded extracurricular activities like sports teams and after-school programs.
However, she voiced some concerns about how the merger of the two schools would play out, including the nature of a combined or dual-track program, the interplay between secular and religious teachings within the school, the physical size of the building, as well as the supports for LGBTQ+ students at the school.
“I don’t expect [these questions] to be answered right away, but how you go about making these decisions could really impact both programs if they were to come to Kathyrn School?” Culp said. “No matter who is at the school, I always want to make sure that we can continue to build on our sense of community and family, because that to me is one of the most important things about our school.”
“It doesn’t matter where you come from physically, it’s just who you are once you’re in the building, and I really want that to be maintained,” she added.
Kaitland Duncan, a Grade 7 student from Prince of Peace, was one of two students who presented a multimedia video to the board during the May 6 meeting. She said the staff and students at Prince of Peace have been like a second family to her.
“[They] let me talk about my faith where at different recreational places, not in school, they don’t let me talk about my faith, and sometimes the adults will get upset if I [do],” Duncan said. “At this school, they let me talk about my faith and if somebody has a different faith, they let them talk about it as well.”
Likewise, fellow presenter Amelie Bonnet said that during her time at the school, she has always felt supported in her faith.
“I feel like the teachers are really good at teaching us religion and basic needs for life or skills to get a better job or just live on, and they each do it in a creative way,” she said. “I just think this school has always had a really good perspective on God and I understand Him more and about the Bible over time.”
Ward 4 Trustee Norma Lang said both presentations encapsulated the feeling of the school, adding the board members will have much to consider following the meeting.
“What I heard from both presentations was the warmth and commitment to the school, to the community and to families, and the impact of change on both of those,” Lang said.
“So your messages were not missed by any of the trustees and I do thank you so much for being part of that democratic process in coming forward and putting your position forward for consideration.”
A final decision is anticipated at the board’s next meeting on May 13.
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