While it wasn’t unexpected, the School District of Mystery Lake (SDML) was officially notified in an April 9 letter that they won’t be getting any grant-in-lieu (GIL) money from the City of Thompson for the next couple years.
During Tuesday’s meeting, chairperson Don Macdonald read a letter from Mayor Dennis Fenske, which stated that the complete absence of GIL funding is based on the city’s new arrangement with Vale, which lasts until Dec. 31, 2021.
City council officially approved this four-year agreement Jan. 2: it cut the amount of money Vale contributes to the city, the SDML and the Local Government District (LGD) of Mystery Lake by 20 per cent from the 2017 level this year and to half of the 2017 level for the three years after that, with the possibility of some additional money in the second year.
While this remaining GIL could have been split between these three organizations according to the previous formula, with the city getting about 71 per cent, the school board 28 per cent and the LGD the remainder, Fenske’s letter made it clear that none of that money is going towards the school district for the term of the agreement.
Macdonald said that they’ve been expecting this news from the city for a while and put together their 2018−19 budget with this outcome in mind.
“One of the things we can say is that the budget was developed in anticipation of this and we won’t need to make any changes to it,” he said.
After participating in an early years enhancement grant meeting remotely, co-superintendent Lorie Henderson recently got her hands on some noteworthy statistics relating to the SDML’s student body and shared these figures with the rest of the school board on Tuesday.
According to the data she was provided, Henderson said the SDML has Manitoba’s highest rate of self-declared Indigenous students in kindergarten to Grade 3 at 55 per cent.
However, Frontier School Division and Park West School Division were not included in this data.
In terms of the number of enrolled students per square kilometre (km2) the SDML ranks second in Manitoba with a population of 63.608 students km2, while the Winnipeg School Division takes an easy first place with 104 students km2.
On a not so positive note, Henderson also revealed that the SDML has a bit of a truancy problem to deal with, since, as of last week, they registered 255 students who have over 50 absences.
“Daily attendance is really important and … has the greatest impact on student learning,” said Henderson. “I’ve identified with students by school and I’ll be having those conversation with the schools.”
Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Program presentation
The board of trustees also hosted a group presentation during Tuesday’s meeting, where a pair of educators and a single student talked about the merits of the Aboriginal Youth Mentorship Program (AYMP).
This group consisted of Wapanohk principal Kathleen Kelson, R.D. Parker Collegiate teacher Madeline Ponask and Grade 9 student Lucas Antsanen, who have all been involved in this after-school program that aims to promote physical activity, healthy eating and overall well-being for Grade 3−5 students.
According to Kelson, the AYMP also involves a distinct research component, where some of their participants are measured for their body mass index, waist circumference and hip circumference to gauge the effectiveness of the program.
While AYMB is aimed at helping children who are at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, which disproportionately affects Indigenous communities, principal Kelson mentioned that a lot of the program’s core values are communicated through older youth mentors, who run a lot of these activities and supervise their younger counterparts.
Antsanen is one of 11 youth mentors in the program, and told the school board that he’s learned a lot and met a lot of great friends through taking part in it.
Despite getting its start in Northern Manitoba with a pilot program in Garden Hill, principal Kelson mentioned that this program has since spread to schools in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
Locally, Wapanohk School hosts this 20-week program every Tuesday from 3:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. until the end of May.
To learn more information about this program, please visit the official AYMP page on the Public Health Agency of Canada website or contact Kelson at 204-677-6140.
The next SDML board of trustees meeting is scheduled to take place May 8 at their headquarters on 408 Thompson Drive.