In 2014-2015, we saw data of projected student enrollment in Glenwood and Hill Spring would decrease significantly over the next five to ten years, resulting in several combined grades, with some teachers even having up to four grades to teach at the same time. This was not seen as a good solution for the students in these schools, and we worried that any more losses in student population would result in one of the schools being forced to close.
We understood that each of the schools in Hill Spring and Glenwood are integral to the continued viability of the communities and that the schools are important parts of the identity of the communities. We wanted to find a solution to keep both schools open for the sake of the students and the communities.
We discussed the options available to us and to the schools. We asked for written input and received 32 submissions. We held a public consultation meeting with parents and community members on April 21, 2015, to gather input and have discussions about the proposed reconfiguration of schools. The decision was made to turn Glenwood School into a K-5 school and the Hill Spring School into a 6-9 school was based on the research and data gathered by Division administration, the written input from community members, the discussions at the community consultation, and discussion and debate at the Board meeting.
This was done to ensure a more steady stream of students from both communities into both schools, keeping both viable for as long as possible.
The change did mean some changes in the transportation of students. Rather than having bus routes bring all students within the previous school boundaries to each school, now buses had to bring students from both boundaries to respective schools. This was made more difficult by the way school bus routes were designed prior to 2016.
For the last several years, Westwind transportation supervisors used the best tools available to them at the time, but much of the work was manual and time-consuming. Within the last 12 months, the transportation technology has advanced significantly, and new transportation supervisor, Mr. Corey McCarthy has worked tirelessly to implement a GPS based system that has much greater capacity than previous tools.
Corey McCarthy was tasked with setting up the software and took over as Transportation Supervisor in May 2016. Corey spent the next seven months rushing to get the software setup. He completed a task that should have taken a full year and a half in just over half a year. When parents who lived far from the communities began complaining in September 2016 about long ride times, bus transition times, and wait times at school before classes began, Corey was able to make minor adjustments, as had his predecessors in the past. By February 2017, he had set up the software sufficiently that he designed new routes that would significantly change each of the bus routes in the region and improve the ride times of nearly every student riding the bus in the region.
Westwind held a meeting in March 2017 in Hill Spring to present the proposed changes and to ask for feedback. The feedback was taken into account, and the implementation of the changes was delayed to start in the next school year as a result.