Why an advocacy section on the FSD website?
We are often asked how you can engage in Foothills School Division goals and objectives. We appreciate this offer of help and are happy to invite you, our community, to support these advocacy efforts.
What are our priorities?
Our current focus areas for advocacy all share a common goal: Ensuring the majority of our budget dollars are directed to school and classroom-based staff. This will assure that we operate at maximum efficiency while also promoting high-quality learning in all schools across the division.
Our immediate advocacy priorities are:
- Secure construction funding for a new high school in Okotoks.
To reduce the student population at École Secondaire Foothills Composite High School/Alberta High School of Fine Arts which currently sits at over 130% capacity.
- Provide equity of opportunity and school-based services for rural communities.
To create flourishing communities where schools are self-sustaining and celebrate the unique opportunities rural education provides.
- Change the way school capacity is calculated to allow for learning spaces to be recognized and funded accordingly.
To recognize the many justified uses of school space that are not part of the current formula to calculate student population capacity, and to identify the restricting factors that negatively impact this calculation.
- Implement Alberta Education-funded full-time kindergarten across the province.
To leverage the international research base that speaks to the many benefits of early intervention and education on later life outcomes. This would be an investment in safeguarding our collective future.
- Increase transportation funding.
To redirect these operational dollars back into our classrooms to reduce and/or eliminate transportation fees for eligible students.
How can you help?
Your voice as a stakeholder in public education is key to advocating for positive change. Sharing your voice with elected officials and decision-makers is a great way to support our advocacy efforts. You can do this easily:
- Download a draft letter from the area of advocacy you feel strongly about.
- Add your thoughts to the letter at your discretion.
- Sign the letter.
- Email your letter to your elected officials who are listed below.
What are the facts about our Immediate and Ongoing advocacy priorities and areas?
Our Immediate Advocacy Priorities
|Secure construction funding for a new high school in Okotoks ||Change the way school capacity is calculated to allow for school usage to be recognized and funded accordingly |
- A new high school in Okotoks has been in our Capital Plan for the last 3 years.
- École Secondaire Foothills Composite High School/Alberta High School of Fine Arts is built to accommodate 1000 students.
- The school currently has an enrollment of 1429 students or approximately 130% of its intended capacity.
- School programming opportunities are limited in over-capacity schools.
- Okotoks and the County of Foothills are planning to build a water pipeline from Calgary that will be operational in 2025. Securing a reliable water supply will increase development and population growth in the school’s catchment area.
- We are working with the Town of Okotoks to collaboratively plan a shared school and community site.
- Immediate Alberta Education funding would see a new high school site operational by 2026.
- Current calculation speaks only to overall square meters and number of students and does not accommodate for break-out spaces and other rooms that cannot be used as homerooms.
- Larger spaces, such as an expanded gym, are a disadvantage to junior and high school usage calculations.
- School population calculation does not include:
- Digital school leadership spaces
- Digital school teaching spaces
- Junior kindergarten students
- Capital funding suffers because of this outdated model though costs increase in terms of utilities and usage.
- Allowance of the above to calculate accurate school capacity and adequate funding that follows would be a priority change moving forward.
- This would allow us to maintain our facilities more optimally moving forward.
- Provide equity of opportunity and school-based services for rural communities.
|Implement Alberta Education-funded full-time kindergarten across the province||Provide equity of opportunity and school-based services for rural communities|
- Research is clear on early educational opportunities and positive life outcomes.
- Recognize this research and provide increased opportunities for our community.
- Realizing full-time kindergarten supports families who need to coordinate childcare on non-school days.
- Funding for rural schools was changed in the 2020-2021 budget
- Funding grants are now per-student, which hurts schools with lower populations. Schools cannot address the decline in enrollments.
- Rural schools are a hub for the social, health, and cultural needs of communities.
|Increase transportation funding|
- The current Alberta Education funding model for transportation is based on 2013 data.
- Costs for fuel, buses, insurance, and human resources have increased significantly since 2013. Adjustments for these factors have been inadequately funded.
- We cannot use capital funding dollars to purchase insurance on capital assets.
- We realize a $250,000 shortfall in transportation costs every school year and this is drawn from our operational funding, which is best intended for classroom support.
- The walk radius for schools has been reduced for the 2024-2025 school year, requiring an additional 20 buses to accommodate the increase in students.
- September 2023 announcement from the Government of Alberta states school boards can borrow the funding for the new, mandated buses, amortized over 10 years, further indebting the division to the province.
Our Ongoing Advocacy Efforts
|Continue to reduce property insurance costs ||Continued increases in funding for student mental health supports |
- We have a legislated responsibility to purchase property insurance coverage for all our sites.
- We cannot use capital funding budget dollars to purchase insurance.
- In the 2018-2019 school year, we paid $547,000 for insurance.
- For the 2021-2022 school year, our property insurance costs were $2.4 million dollars. An increase of 400% since 2019-2019.
- The outstanding difference between cost and funding is close to $2 million, which is drawn out of our operational budget (classroom-based funding).
- Alberta Education has provided supplementary grant funding to offset our insurance costs over the past three years:
20/21 - $800,000; 21/22 - $469,000; 22/23 - $226,463
- Alberta Education has advocated for our division to reduce insurance premiums; however, they remain high in comparison with other divisions.
- In 2022, the Minister granted FSD’s request to move $1 million from FSD Capital Reserves – money allocated for buses, lease payments, and facility services – to cover the over $2 million insurance premium.
- Alberta Budget 2023 announced $80 million – over the next 3 years– for increased costs of utilities, insurance and supplies.
- For the 2023-2024 school year this equates to $400,000 that Foothills School Division can put towards our projected $1,855,000 insurance bill.
- Our division data tells us that mental wellness for our students has become more complex and diverse in the last several years.
- We have seen an increase in:
- Self-reported student anxiety
- Student suicide risk assessments
- Student violence threat assessments
- We have concurrently seen a decrease in funding to support mental wellness in the same time period
- We currently see a shortfall of operational funds from our 2018 funding
- We have had to decrease our division mental wellness staff
- Alberta Education’s Mental Health Grant dollars funding in the amount of $630,000 will help us increase on-site support for our students to meet existing needs.
Our Advocacy Achievements
|Secured planning funding for a new high school in Okotoks||Increased funding for student mental health supports |
- $630,000 received from Alberta Education for Student Mental Health Projects (December 2022 to December 2024) to better serve our students with onsite support throughout our school division.
|Reduced property insurance costs to redirect these operational dollars back into our classrooms.|
Where can I learn more?
The following links provide more information about the advocacy priorities outlined above:
Foothills School Division Capital Plan 2023-2025
Foothills School Division Budget 2023-2024
Funding manual for school authorities 2022/2023 school year
Province of Alberta Education Act
Alberta 2022-2023 Mid-Year Fiscal Update and Economic Statement
Alberta Infrastructure - Planning school projects