Exshaw School will close at the end of June after federal government decided to cease funding First Nations students at the school.
Christopher MacPhee, superintendent at Canadian Rockies Public Schools (CRPS) confirmed to Global News Tuesday the decision to re-purpose the school was made at the board’s meeting on Jan. 23, after a failure to reach a viable funding agreement with Indigenous Services Canada.
Home to almost 200 students — most of them Indigenous — the school has been funded by federal dollars since 1973. Under the current agreement, it educates Stoney Nakoda First Nation children outside of that community upon a parent’s request.
But now the federal government wants to direct the education funding through First Nations and their schools, meaning CRPS had to renegotiate a new deal with the Stoney Education Authority and the government.
MacPhee said the federal government was prepared to fund the upcoming school year but, with no guarantee of a permanent funding agreement, the board was concerned about the implications for job stability and contracts — not to mention keeping families in a state of flux for another year.
Meanwhile, two Alberta government cabinet ministers have written to Indigenous Services calling for the funding to restored but said that call has gone unanswered.
“We are extremely concerned by the federal government’s recent decision to terminate the funding agreement for First Nations students attending Exshaw School without a plan to work with these students, their families, or the Canadian Rockies School Division,” Education Minister Adriana LaGrange and Minister of Indigenous Relations Rick Wilson said in a statement.
“This short-sighted decision has forced Canadian Rockies School Division to vote in favour of re-purposing the school.”
“In December, we wrote to Marc Miller, federal Minister of Indigenous Services, expressing our concern about the decision and urged him to reconsider this funding decision. To date, our requests have gone unanswered.”
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But this is not necessarily the end for the school, as school administrators have a meeting with federal officials and the Stoney Education Authority Wednesday.
MacPhee said he appreciates the support of the provincial ministers who are urging the federal government to working with the school division — the Stoney Education Authority — and affected parents to make sure Exshaw School remains open.