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School year off to great start

Posted on November 18, 2013 by Westwind Weekly

The beginning of a new school year can be challenging for students as the get back into their educational routine, even more so for an entire school division.

Ken Sommerfeldt, superintendent of schools for Westwind School Division, said this year start-up went extremely well across the division.

In a couple of areas there was some growth in enrolment but the final numbers, submitted to the province for student-based funding, are not confirmed until the end of September.

Sommerfeldt said initial enrolment figures do indicate growth in both Raymond and Mountain View.

“It’s been an on-going trend,” he said in those communities.

Fortunately for Westwind’s long range planning, Sommerfeldt said the school division has enjoyed stable enrolment in recent years.

While the final enrolment figures are not considered official until a month into the school year, the school division assigns its staffing based on enrolment projections calculated in the spring and then makes adjustments as required in the fall.

“We don’t add until we absolutely know.”

He said the projection models used by the school division work well and are very close to the actual numbers come fall.

It is Westwind’s philosophy to commit to staffing numbers in the spring, based on the projections, and adjust up as required by student numbers.

In preparation for the start of the new school year the division hosted an extensive professional development week.

“Overall we feel that has been a success.”

He noted it’s not uncommon in Alberta for school staff to back the week before classes resume.

This year having the Westwind staff back a week early worked well with the timing of the start of school, falling after the Labour Day weekend.

As the 2013-2014 school year unfolds, Sommerfeldt said the school division is keeping to the focus it has had for three years, primarily one of refining its professional learning communities. With a deep focus on instructional strategies, he said across the division staff are working toward increasing professional learning, inclusion and teaching capacity.

“This year we’re wanting to refine our process.”

On the facility front, a value management process was undertaken in Magrath to explore what is needed in the community to meet the educational needs of the students. The division worked with officials from Alberta Education and Alberta Infrastructure as well as collecting input from the community, the schools, the town, the county, teachers and principals.

The next step will have to come from the province by way of a commitment to fund a capital project in the town. Sommerfeldt said now it’s in the hands of the government to determine what projects they will consider and announce funding to support.

He said the school division would hope to hear something in the next year to 18 months.

Next up to be considered will be Stirling. Currently the modernization of Cardston Elementary School is in its final year with classes expected to be in the finished project in the fall of 2014.

Sommerfeldt said the school division anticipates students will move in to the Phase 1 portion of the project by the beginning of January.

As a school division, he said Westwind has been on the receiving end of funding and support from the province for facility upgrades including recent projects in Raymond to the elementary, junior high and high school.

“We’ve been very proactive and very fortunate.”

In his fourth year as superintendent, Sommerfeldt said he feels the school division is moving forward in a positive way and has enjoyed a good start to the new school year.

“We feel real positive about the start for the year.”

He also praised the staff across the division for their progressive approach to education and the communities for they way in which they support education.

“We have great communities.”

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