Two local school divisions held board meetings right before Christmas. Along with the nuts and bolts of running a school division, the school boards learned about two topics of interest. One had a report on a mental health pilot project. The other learned how the division was helping teachers implement the new elementary curriculum.

“Our kids are hurting,” said Pam Heckbert, at the High Prairie School Division (HPSD) Dec. 20, 2022 board meeting. Their emotional “needs far outweigh specialists and supports currently in place,” she added.
Heckbert presented on the new mental health pilot project which HPSD is doing with another school board.

The pilot consists of ‘trauma-informed practice’ workshops, said Heckbert. These will be taught by Jessie Johnson, who already works for HPSD as a therapist. She speaks Cree and is connected with the local communities. Over the next two years, she’ll teach workshops to people connected with both school divisions. The second year this will likely also include community partners. After the workshops, Johnson will check in with participants.

“Trauma-informed practice is more of a philosophy,” said Heckbert.

However, it was not defined at the meeting.

“Trauma-Informed Practice is a strengths-based framework grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma,” says the BC government’s website.

HPSD trustee Cory Hughes, from Slave Lake, had some questions for Heckbert. One was “is there thoughts of the long-term goals?”

Carrying the knowledge forward was why the school board chose to work with Johnson and to focus on trauma-informed practice, said Heckbert. Through the workshops, the goal is to build capacity in the school division as a whole, she added. “Moving forward that institutional knowledge will remain.”

Another trustee, Karin Scholl, asked about the logistics of covering Johnson’s current workload.

“We can fill the gaps,” said Heckbert.

Trustee Lynn Skrepnek asked, “are we looking at maybe doing a train-the-trainer program?”

“I think that’s a really important part of capacity building,” answered Heckbert.

Pleased by the answer, Skrepnek said, “This sounds really good to me, and I don’t want to lose that.”

Aspen View
One of the topics in the Aspen View Public School Division Dec. 15, 2022 board meeting highlights was an update on implementation of the new elementary school curriculum.

So far K to 3 math and English have been added. In the fall, K to 3 teachers were offered two curriculum implementation sessions. In the new year, information sessions will focus on K – 3 science, fine arts, and French and Grade 4 – 6 math and English.

High Prairie School Division, Alberta trustee Cory Hughes

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader