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Blackfalds & Lacombe school boundary and grade configuration review enters third phase

Wolf Creek board to review feedback in advance of final decision this fall

Wolf Creek Public Schools’ board of trustees will be examining feedback from teachers and staff, parents and families ahead of a final decision in the Blackfalds & Lacombe School Boundary and Grade Configuration Review.

The review began in January with Phase I, as the board engaged with parents and staff regarding what should be considered by the board and administration in a boundary and grade configuration review.

This was needed due to Iron Ridge Secondary Campus (IRSC), the new high school for Blackfalds that is under construction and will open in the fall of 2024, noted a release.

The new high school in Blackfalds will impact enrollment at École Secondaire Lacombe Composite High School (ÉSLCHS) in Lacombe, as high school students residing in Blackfalds currently attend ÉSLCHS but will attend IRSC when it opens.

In Phase II, two open houses and an online survey took place in May to gather feedback regarding alternatives for new attendance boundaries for Blackfalds and Lacombe and new grade configurations for Blackfalds schools.

Four alternatives were presented: two with expanded boundaries and two with the boundaries remaining the same but including Grades 10-12 in Blackfalds.

The alternatives also explored two different grade configurations for Blackfalds: one with two K-5s, one 6-8 and a 9-12, and the other with two K-3s, one 4-6 and one 7-12.

“No decision has been made at this point, and the feedback gathered in Phase II is invaluable to allow for some concerted reflection on how best to proceed, and frame a fulsome discussion for the board,” said Tim De Ruyck, WCPS superintendent.

In the feedback from Phase II, there was strong support for expanding the boundaries as participants viewed the benefits of distributing enrollment between Blackfalds and Lacombe more equitable, increasing enrollment from the rural areas of Lacombe County resulting in shorter bus rides and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the schools in both communities.

There was also very strong support for configuring the new high school in Blackfalds as a 9-12 with mentions describing this age grouping as most appropriate.

At the same time, there were significant concerns about having two elementary schools in Blackfalds with the same grade configuration.

Most respondents of the survey (70 per cent) described themselves as parents with children, either current or future, attending schools in WCPS, about one-fifth of respondents (19 per cent) identified themselves as staff and the rest identified as community members (11 per cent).

Respondents represented all schools in Blackfalds and Lacombe, with the majority having children attend at least one of the schools in Blackfalds.

The largest number of respondents have children who attend Iron Ridge Elementary Campus.

“We appreciate the range of perspectives that was expressed through this public consultation. There is a lot to consider for the board, from feedback to enrollment projections and operational pressures,” said De Ruyck.

“There is unfortunately not a scenario that can guarantee a solution for the long term, but the goal is to address the attendance boundaries for Lacombe and Blackfalds and the grade configuration in Blackfalds schools in the most sensible way as a step forward.”

The next step in this process is for the board to analyze the consultant’s report from May, including recommendations made by the consultants.

The board hopes to have a final decision before the Christmas break.

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