Editorial – It’s called a ‘whiff’

Jeff Burgar

As near as can be found, there is no longer interest in building any sort of “integrated high school-college” in High Prairie.

The idea was, local schools, both private and public, would share space with Northern Lakes College, which is building a new campus in High Prairie. The High Prairie School Division, Holy Family Catholic School Division, and NLC would all benefit. They wouldn’t have to build separate facilities of their own, such as Industrial Arts workshops. The concept was to share construction and budgets, and add more advanced tools and equipment, potentially from science to cooking to computers and more.

This was all great thinking. Most people aren’t aware, but the quality of gear and instruction in many big city schools is far way superior to what can be offered in rural schools everywhere. Culinary arts? Some schools have all manner of stoves, from electric to induction to gas. Broilers and deep fryers and more. Industrial arts? Some schools are happy with a table saw. City schools have computer controlled cutting equipment and 3D printers.

Not to mention, getting high level instruction in mathematics or computing science is easier when you have many students lining up for those courses simply because of bigger populations.

But, the good ideas went away several weeks ago. Maybe it was the spirit of “If we can’t have it all, we would rather have nothing” that clouds many people’s thinking these days. Whatever the reason, a new NLC campus will soon be under construction beside the existing location.

Our communities should be disappointed. Leadership has let us down. Education for all our peoples should be one of the top priorities of everybody, from Gift Lake to Peavine to Joussard and Faust to High Prairie and East Prairie. The leaders of all our various interest groups, including our MLA Danielle Larivee, should have been out there knocking heads together, pushing hard.

Instead, we got what? Closed door meetings in which, despite denials from parties who actually did meet and talk, many local government officials did not attend. Media were barred from meetings.

Next down the list, after all our local politicians, is the “Missing in Action” leadership of school trustees, both from HPSD and Holy Family. Again, there are differing stories of who did what, when, where, why and how hard they tried.

Almost exactly a year ago, we said in this newspaper “Make no mistake, this is a big deal, especially for the extended High Prairie region and Northern Lakes College. A bigger, better education facility that keeps young people closer to home as they pass from high school to higher learning and skills is nothing but good for our region. It’s good jobs for instructors. It stems the ‘brain drain’ of the best and brightest to other towns. High Prairie is the service center for a large number of communities and is the obvious location for expanded education services, just as it is the obvious location for this part of Northern Alberta’s expanding medical services.”

It’s all very, very disappointing.

 

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