A Cochrane father of two said he is running for school trustee representing Ward 6 in Rocky View Schools (RVS) because he would like to see an improved COVID-19 response, more collaboration with teachers over the proposed K-6 curriculum, and enough schools for the town's growing population.
Peter Fortna said the Province has downloaded the responsibility and decision making around COVID-related safety onto school divisions.
More needs to be done to keep students safe and parents informed, according to Fortna.
“The current school trustees and the incoming trustees need to take that responsibility seriously and gather information wherever possible,” he said. “I like what other school divisions have been doing. For example, Edmonton School Division has set up websites to provide information to parents as best as they can with their schools and where there is outbreaks and how they are responding to them.”
He said RVS should be following suit, and improve their communication strategies.
The division's re-opening plan in September “disappointing”, Fortna said, with bare minimum restrictions and no masking rules – a decision RVS' trustees later recanted after more restrictions were brought down from the provincial government.
“Here we are a month later and, in essence, in a new lockdown,” he said. “Rocky View Schools should have been making more proactive decisions.”
Fortna said another concerning issue he saw over the last year was the dismissal of teachers' opinions by the Province as they developed a new elementary school curriculum.
“The Province actively sought to remove teachers and their input from the process,” he said. “I liked what other school divisions did in the lead-up of it, in putting together groups to review the curriculum and provide constructive feedback.
“It worried me that our board chair, her initial response was there are some good things in there and that we should work with it and look at ways to pilot it.”
He said although RVS later changed their messaging, it is concerning the board was originally favourable to the controversial curriculum. Speaking with teachers first about the curriculum would have been a first good move, according to Fortna.
“If Rocky View Schools had done more to listen to their teachers and sought feedback right off the bat, they would have been in a better situation to determine that this curriculum was a bad idea and that it needs more input from teachers,” he said.
As a trustee, Fortna said he would lobby the Province to re-do the curriculum with teachers’ consultation.
“If elected, one of the first things I would do is really push the provincial government to do the re-write and include teachers from Rocky Schools in that re-writing process,” he said. “We have amazing teachers here and they can provide really important information and insight, as they are the ones who teach our kids every day and understand what will work and what won’t work.”
Another issue Fortna said he would focus on as the Ward 6 trustee is ensuring the school system is growing in line with the town.
“Cochrane is a very quickly growing community as we are all well aware,” he said. “Our high schools are quickly getting to their max. Our elementary schools are at 80-some per cent and that is growing three, four, and sometimes more per cent a year. We need to do some aggressive planning and lobbying for schools we need in Cochrane.”
Fortna can be found on Facebook and online at www.peterfortna.com
Other candidates in Ward 6 include Simon Ongom and incumbent Fiona Gilbert, who is also the current RVS Board Chair.