Meadow Lake summer kids’ program cancelled
by Phil Ambroziak
The Northwest School Division’s recent decision to expel a popular summer recreation program has been given a failing grade by some Meadow Lake parents.
The decision was announced last week by Northwest School Division director of education Duane Hauk.
“The Northwest School Division No. 203 Board of Education has been conducting a summer recreation program in the community of Meadow Lake for a number of years,” Hauk said. “Each year, funding for the program came primarily from the community school budget allocated by the ministry of education.”
Hauk went on to explain the ministry’s new funding model no longer includes a community-specific concept and now bases funding on the division overall. This, he said, resulted in a funding reduction.
“Reducing the funding meant the division would have to re-evaluate staffing and involvement in programs that were not within the Pre-K to Grade 12 mandate,” Hauk said.
Operating a community recreation program during the summer was one example the board gave of a non-mandated initiative. Hauk described the decision as a difficult one, adding it in no way reflects his personal feelings about the program.
“It was a great program for the kids,” he noted. “It gave them an opportunity to experience different activities and it also provided summer jobs for the personnel hired to look after the students.
By no means was this an easy decision to make. There is value to this program – unfortunately, it just didn’t fall into our Pre-K to Grade 12 mandate.”
In recent years, the program attracted close to 100 elementary school age children who would spend two weeks at Jubilee and Lakeview schools. They would participate in activities such as crafts, games, swimming and more.
“This news is upsetting because so many kids will miss out this summer,” remarked Josey Loughins, a Meadow Lake resident whose children were enrolled in the program in past years.
She wishes the city would take a more proactive role when it comes to supporting summer programming for youth.
“The city has been approached several times for funding, but the best they’ve been able to do is maybe provide a few days of free swimming,” she said. “I wholeheartedly believe this should not be the responsibility of the school division, but I see no problem with the city pitching in. They will help fund something like the Summer Games, but not something like this.”
According to interim city manager Richard Levesque, the city has traditionally contributed $9,500 in community grant money to the program. He added, however, the city has no plans to organize a summer program itself.
“If another group were to come forward, we would consider supporting them with community grant funding,” he said.
Meanwhile, Loughins believes the program’s absence could lead to an unfortunate turn of events as far as some kids are concerned.
“There’s going to be a lot of sad, lonely kids wandering the streets all summer, and I definitely think some of them could get into trouble,” she said. “I also know of at least a few daycares that don’t even operate in the summer – finding childcare isn’t easy at that time of year.”
Loughins concluded by reiterating her desire to see something done to address the current summer program situation.
“Having the school division cut its funding is one thing, but there are still school gyms and facilities that could be used for something like this,” she said. “I think if it had been open for discussion, something could have been done. But, the school division’s decision came so late in the year, I’m not sure if there’s anything that can be done now.”