One of the teachers at C.P. Blakely School acting as a crossing guard last year. Staff and students are hoping the 2022/2023 school year will be as normal as possible. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)

One of the teachers at C.P. Blakely School acting as a crossing guard last year. Staff and students are hoping the 2022/2023 school year will be as normal as possible. (Photo by Megan Roth/Sylvan Lake News)

CESD has high hopes for a normal school year

Staff and students with Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD) are looking forward to getting back to the business of learning this school year.

“We’re just very excited,” said Kurt Sacher, superintendent of schools with the division. “I think we’ve got a situation where our teachers and staff are all set up for success, and sustained success. We’re really hoping not to have some of the significant disruptions we’ve had in the past, and that will allow us to get back into the flow and allow us to get back to what we’re trying to do with these young people.”

Sacher said staff are happy to be back to face-to-face interactions with students and other staff members.

“Staff were so isolated and for so long,” he commented. “With the complexities of being a teacher, you really rely on your colleagues. Having that face-to-face interaction and that camaraderie is a tremendous advantage for our school division.”

There will be some new faces within the school division this year – 33 new teachers were hired, which Sacher said is about one-and-a-half to two per cent higher than their usual number of new hires.

The Alberta government recently announced that school divisions across the province are projected to hire up to 800 more teachers and principals, which would be an increase of about 2.2 per cent compared to the 2021/2022 school year, and about 800 more support staff, which would be an increase of 3.1 per cent over last school year. The Minister of Education approved school boards dipping into their reserve funds to hire these additional teachers, but that wasn’t something CESD needed to do.

“We budgeted to hire new teachers,” Sacher explained. “It allows us to not be too nervous about hiring staff as needed. But we did know that we could use our reserves, and that’s a really positive move for the government.”

For support staff, CESD will see an increase of about 40 full-time equivalent staff members.

The Alberta government will also be providing $50 million in 2022/2023 to cover the recently ratified bargaining agreements with teachers.

“That was a very positive step forward,” Sacher said of the additional dollars. “Often they just require us to find that money, which may mean laying off some staff. So we were pleased that the government will be supplying that amount.”

This 2022/2023 school year will also see a new curriculum implemented for kindergarten to grade three students.

In a recent press release, CESD reported that 25 kindergarten to grade three teachers from across the board took part in the Summer Institute, working in grade teams to create and curate resources to support the implementation of this new curriculum.

“The three-day collaboration found that, while there are some new or refreshed initiatives, the curriculum has clear connections to the three divisional goals in CESD: academic excellence, social emotional wellness and career connections,” read the release. “From here, the Summer Institute teachers will collaborate with teacher teams at their schools to ensure full understanding and a successful rollout.”

Jason Drent, associate superintendent of learning services for the division, commented in the press release, “We are all confident as we head into the new school year. We have a strong implementation and support plan for all teachers involved in the new curriculum, and our approach is grounded in our division’s high leverage literacy and numeracy practice. There are a lot of similarities with the former curriculum, and our students will benefit from a great deal of work that has gone into this to ensure success in the classroom.”

Beginning this year, kindergarten to grade three students will have a new curriculum for English language arts and literature and math. Kindergarten to grade six students will also have a new curriculum for physical education and wellness.