Horizon School Division No. 67
STATEMENT OF VALUES
- Safe, caring, and inclusive learning environments
- Student-centered decision making
- Purposeful collaboration and partnerships
- Quality staff and programs throughout our rural schools
- Accountability, sustainability, and fiscal responsibility
- Ethical, transparent practices
We believe in and support…
Foundations of learning:
- Parent and community engagement
- Professional learning
- Research and evidence
Essential learning conditions:
- Effective teaching
- Effective learning environments
- Effective supports and services
- Inclusive education
- Passionately engaged learners
The Horizon School Division is a rural jurisdiction running south‐north from Coutts on the Canada/US border to Lomond in the County of Vulcan. The Division provides education services to approximately 3550 students and consists of 16 schools of various grade configurations, one Christian Alternative School, and three Outreach schools. Additionally, there are 18 Hutterian Brethren schools scattered throughout the Division. Most of the communities within the Horizon School Division are small, with the Town of Taber, population 8,000, being the largest. Schools, excluding one‐room Colony schools, range in size from 32 to 480 students.
The economy of the area is primarily dependent upon agriculture and the oil and gas industry. Some agricultural processing, service industry, and light manufacturing is present in the area. Many of the smaller rural communities have experienced population decline in past years, but some appear to have now stabilized. Others continue to decline, which makes it difficult to offer comprehensive programs and services.The Town of Taber has experienced slow, steady growth and this has been reflected in gradual increases in school enrolments. More recently, there have been significant land development projects approved within the town. It is anticipated that this will begin to have an effect in school population in Taber by 2011. The population of the Taber/Vauxhall area appears to be more transient than elsewhere in the Division. People come and go consistent with activity in the resource‐based industries.
In many of our rural schools, the number of students per grade is small, which has necessitated some double and even triple grading. Furthermore, school subjects are often cycled in multi‐graded classrooms, which results in students writing exams a full year after completing the course. Given this interval, it is understandable that it would be more difficult for students to be as successful as they might otherwise be. High schools with low enrolment often have to combine classes in order to offer courses. Other courses are offered through distance learning or videoconferencing.
Horizon is anxious to provide the same learning opportunities to students in small schools as is offered in larger ones. To this end, the division has developed science boxes, CTS kits and Fine Arts kits that are available to small schools that may lack the resources to otherwise provide these programs. Additionally, Horizon has embarked on some video‐conference delivery of some specialized high school courses (Art, French, Physics) to broaden delivery options in small high schools.
Although our smaller schools face some unique challenges, a small school environment can provide advantages for the students. Smaller class sizes mean more individual attention. These schools are characterized by open and welcoming atmospheres that are safe, secure and strongly connected to the community. Our communities are very supportive of their local school and are actively involved in promoting quality educational experiences for the young people who attend there. Some schools and communities have been very proactive in developing Alternative Programs to attract students. Warner Hockey School and Vauxhall Academy of Baseball are two programs that have brought students from across the province and country to participate in elite level athletics. Horizon School Division is also very fortunate to have a superior staff who endeavor to do whatever it takes to meet the learning needs of the students we serve.
Over the past ten years, a substantial population of Low German Mennonite families from Mexico and other Central American countries has moved into the area. Almost all of these families have settled in the area around Taber, Vauxhall, Enchant, Barnwell, and Grassy Lake. The Division endeavours to accommodate children from these families and encourages their enrolment in our schools. A Kanadier Mennonite Learning Program provides an education setting that respects culture and integrates cultural components that the parents have identified as an important part of their children’s’ educational program. At the secondary level, an Outreach program targeting this population was established in Vauxhall. In addition, the Taber Outreach school, ACE Place, accommodates secondary age Kanadier students through the delivery of a separate program. An Outreach School located in Grassy Lake targeting this at‐risk population opened in the 2009-2010 school year. All students from this unique population are ESL students and they generally do not proceed beyond the upper elementary or early junior high grades. Many of these students return with their families to Mexico during the winter months.
The number of Hutterian Brethren schools has also increased, and it is anticipated that this trend will continue. In the 2007/08 school year, a new colony was located within Horizon. Students new to the school division generated increased revenue for the Colony Schools, which helps to cover the costs associated with setting up new schools. Unfortunately, when colonies split within the division, substantial additional costs are incurred, including costs for staff and learning resources, with no new revenue being generated. One of these internal splits occurred in the 2008/09 school year, and another internal split will occured in the 2009-2010 school year. Meetings have been held with colony leaders and they have been very understanding and supportive. By working together to overcome funding challenges, it is anticipated that Horizon will be able to support the additional schools within budget allotments.
Most Low German Mennonite and Hutterite students are English Second Language students. As such, Horizon has a significant percentage of ESL students. Over 30% of the students writing provincial achievement tests at the grade 3 level are ESL. Even with such a high number of ESL students, results on provincial achievement tests have generally been above provincial average.
The Jurisdiction Profile Report for Horizon School Division notes that the average income for individuals and families is significantly lower than the provincial averages. Furthermore, the level of schooling of individuals in the jurisdiction is also lower than the provincial average. Both of these findings have implications for schooling in Horizon School Division.
Student achievement in Horizon School Division, as measured by Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma Exams, generally meets or exceeds provincial standards and is above provincial averages. The Board, parents, and students have come to expect high levels of achievement compared to the remainder of the province. These high expectations work in a positive way to promote student achievement.
Family/school counselling needs are high in the jurisdiction. Although other agencies partner with Horizon to provide counselling in schools, support has diminished over the past few years so that the school jurisdiction is burdened with the major responsibility. Horizon School Division is fortunate to have excellent personal and career counselling services. Teachers, administrators, and parents express strong support for these services. In addition, Horizon has had the benefit of having a three‐year Mental Health project, Family Connections, implemented for two years. The project has had a tremendous impact on the services to students and families in three Horizon schools with at‐risk populations. After seeing the difference such programming makes with respect to removing barriers and ensuring kids come to school ready to learn, it will be a difficult transition when the project comes to an end at the conclusion of the upcoming school year.
Horizon School Division continues to offer exemplary inclusive educational programming for students with special needs. The number of students with special needs has remained constant over the past school year. Proportionately, Horizon School Division continues to have higher numbers of students with special needs than the provincial average. The complexities of the students’ disabilities, along with limited access to specialized services, have led to increasing challenges. Horizon remains committed to providing quality educational programs and services to students with special needs.