After rigorous debate, a final decision regarding the future of Prince of Peace Lutheran School was made at Rocky View Schools' (RVS) Board of Trustees meeting on May 13.
While trustees spent nearly three hours debating the future of the school, the board was eventually in agreement the school should remain open for the 2021-22 school year and operate in its current format.
The board motioned to reassess interest in the Christian program at the point of closure in August 2022. If sufficient enrolment numbers mean continuing the program is viable, RVS will create a Kindergarten to Grade 6 Christian program at East Lake School in Chestermere, and a Grade 7 to 9 program at Chestermere Lake Middle School.
According to RVS, the closure of Prince of Peace was deemed necessary after the property owner of the school’s current facility in Conrich informed the division earlier this spring that it would execute its right to terminate the building's lease, effective Aug. 5, 2022.
According to Area Trustee Patty Sproule, while there were differing opinions as to the best relocation plan for the school, considering Kathyrn School as an option, the vast majority of stakeholders seemed in support of the program being housed in Chestermere, where many Prince of Peace students already reside.
“My motion is based on the voice of the majority – with whom I agree,” Sproule said.
Similarly, Trustee Todd Brand said that while moving students from an individual school to a program that is embedded within a separate school would not be simple, it is “very doable.”
“The decision that we are voting on today is going to be difficult on families no matter what,” he said. “I truly believe this proposal provides a positive, thoughtful, caring and practical response to the needs of the students who currently attend Prince of Peace.
“It also brings up an awesome opportunity for many more families in the Chestermere area,” he added.
Brand also referenced a successful Airdrie school that has incorporated a Christian program in much the same way that Sproule proposed.
However, not all board members were in agreement with the decision to add a faith-based program to existing Chestermere schools.
During the meeting, Ward 1 (Chestermere) Trustee Shali Baziuk urged board members to consider what would be best for the entire school division and the resulting impact the decision would have on the aforementioned Chestermere schools. She added both East Lake and Chestermere Lake Middle School are estimated to reach or exceed capacity in the 2024-25 school year.
“What kind of longevity, what kind of permanency are we giving Prince of Peace families [when] two years away from when we put a Christian school in at these schools [they’re at capacity]?” Baziuk asked.
She added Chestermere is one of the fastest growing communities in the division.
“We first need to prioritize good governance and the health of the entire organization, if we don’t prioritize this, then who is?” she said. “I want a Christian program on the east side but not to the detriment of our existing school enrolment."
Sproule countered these concerns by saying there will be disruption and increased population at the schools regardless if they incorporate the Christian program in 2022 or not, as many Prince of Peace students will be designated to those Chestermere schools anyway. She added she does not see a way forward that will not cause some level of disruption, but the decision is the best for all involved.
“Internal to the walls [at Prince of Peace] is an exceptional community made up of men and women, girls and boys, who resemble a very large, richly diverse close-knit family,” Sproule said. “I know this family will face the uncertainties ahead with grace and fortitude.
“Prince of Peace is not a building, nor even just a program. It is a bond of shared experiences, memories, and faith. No matter where this family’s member settle, the Prince of Peace legacy will live on in each one of them,” she added.
Prince of Peace currently offers faith-based programming to 377 students from Chestermere, Langdon, east Rocky View County, Calgary, and Airdrie, along with 41 staff members.
RVS Trustees will be working to support a smooth transition for students, staff and families at Prince of Peace, according to Superintendent Greg Luterbach.
“The board’s decision resolves uncertainty about the future of faith-based programming in the Chestermere area and will allow students, families, staff and the division to move forward with a clear direction,” he stated in a press release issued after the meeting.
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