Flood doesnt dampen 2013-14 school year
High River: Displaced students in Okotoks will receive transportation
By: Bruce Campbell
| Posted: Wednesday, Aug 21, 2013 09:28 am
A displaced mother will have some normalcy return to her family’s life when her twins will be bused to their High River school despite likely living in a work-camp environment.
“I wanted to have my children continue to go to their High River school,” said Dorothy Everitt, who is currently living with her family at the Lions Campground in Okotoks. “It is a comfort zone and normalcy to them. They have had enough trauma this summer, they don’t need to have the extra trauma of going to a different school as well.”
The Everitts evacuated from their High River home on June 20 by the Highwood River flood. Her two children, Wyatt and Rebecca, were attending classes at Senator Riley School and were evacuated from the school as the flood waters surged through town.
Everitt has informed the Foothills School Division the family will likely be at the Saddlebrook temporary complex south of Aldersyde when school starts on Sept. 3. Her twins are expected to get bused into school from Saddlebrook to Senator Riley for their Grade 8 year.
“Staying at Saddlebrook, it is a relief to know we have a place to put our heads for the night,” Everitt said. “And even though they (the twins) won’t be at their own home, getting on the bus again, it will be getting back to the same routine.”
The two major school divisions in the area are working together to ensure High River students can be educated in their community even if they have been displaced by the June 20 flood.
Denise Rose, Foothills School Division (FSD) superintendent, said she is working with Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools (CRCS) to not only provide space for High River students, but also a way to get to school.
“We have talked to Christ the Redeemer about sharing buses,” Rose said. “What we would likely do is have a pick-up place and take them to their schools in High River.”
She said the divisions will also provide transportation from the Saddlebrook temporary housing site south of Aldersyde.
“If you are displaced, contact your local school and let them know where you are,” Rose said. “We are up and running and we are in a good place.”
CRCS superintendent Scott Morrison said he is attempting to get a hold of parents to see if their children need to be bused to High River from Okotoks and the surrounding area. Many families who lived in High River are now living in other communities like Okotoks while their homes are being remediated.
“Christ the Redeemer and Foothills have expressed a willingness that if we have a sufficient number of kids who are displaced in Okotoks but want to go to High River, then we will bus them,” Morrison said. “At this point, we haven’t received the sufficient amount of interest.”
Much like the flood bringing out the best in people to help others, it has made the two divisions closer than ever. For the first time in either school divisions’ history, they will be sharing facilities to help one another get over the hump of the flood. Christ the Redeemer School Division faced significantly more damage to their High River schools compared to their public counterparts.
Holy Spirit Academy, a Kindergarten to Grade 6 school, will be closed for the full year as it was partially submerged in “the lake” in northeast High River caused by the flood for several weeks.
Plans are to have the elementary students in 26 state-of-the-art portable classrooms at Notre Dame Collegiate (NDC) in the northwest part of High River. The NDC students (Grades 7 to 12) will be at the west wing of Foothills’ Senator Riley School until January, while the east wing and some portables will be used by the public school students.
In January, the Grade 7 to 12 students will return to NDC, while the elementary students will remain in the portables.
“Educators are in a helping profession and Foothills saw our needs and they stepped up to help us — we are really grateful,” Morrison said. “We know it’s a temporary situation and we will be under our own roofs before long.”
He said the CRCS will restrict religious symbols to its temporary portion of Senator Riley School.
“It’s not fair to have them in a secular building,” Morrison said.
All four of the public schools in High River will open for the first day of school on Sept. 3. Rose said the division is cautiously optimistic there won’t be a significant drop in attendance at High River schools.
“The early indicators are it looks like most of our students and families are going to be back,” Rose said.
She said at Spitzee School and Highwood High School, projections on Aug. 14 were up from what was projected in the spring.
“Now you always hear about the ones that are coming, you don’t necessarily hear about the ones who are going to leave,” Rose said. “We won’t know until the first day of school, but it looks promising.”
She added she has heard “chatter” of some High River students opting to come to Okotoks since the flood. She said the division will have a better handle on the situation when Okotoks schools open for registration on Aug. 21. Rose added if adjustments have to be made regarding staff it would be in September.
Morrison said he believes the majority of CRCS students will be in High River when its school year starts on Aug. 28.
“We have contacted about 90 per cent of the families and I understand only 10 per cent have confirmed they are not returning,” Morrison said. “We expect a minor increase in Okotoks from High River, but right now it is too early to tell.”