A public information meeting was held last night regarding the proposed partnership between Long Plain School and the Portage la Prairie School Division.

The meeting addressed a range of questions about funding and how the partnership would work. Portage School Division Superintendent Todd Cuddington explains.

“This is a one year deal right now, that we would do, with the opportunity for it to renew providing it’s successful year after year. So both sides would have that opportunity to withdraw if it wasn’t. I think people didn’t really understand that when the topic was brought up,” says Cuddington. “The funding source wouldn’t impact local rate-payers. This is a federal funding arrangement, the sources would come from ISC, which is Indigenous Services Canada. I think those were two of the big questions that a lot of people who came out needed to have answered.”

The meeting also discussed the existing partnership between the PLPSD and Long Plain. Currently, Long Plain students attend PCI for high school, and students living in Keeshkeemaquah attend a number of schools within the division. The new component of the partnership would see additional support between the Portage Division and the school located at Long Plain First Nation.

However, the partnership would not affect the pre-existing programming in the Portage School Division, stresses Long Plain School Principal Bill Beauchamp. “It’s not that they’re going to discontinue one program just to offer us something,” he explains, adding what they are doing is all for the benefit of the students.

Beauchamp notes their school has been stand-alone for quite some time. He explains while they offer students all the mandatory courses in the provincial curriculum, they don’t have the option for students to take any extra curricular courses such as music or art. He says when the students get to high school, at PCI, they have the chance to participate in some of these courses which is really exciting for them. He adds another benefit is the possibility for the Long Plain students to join other students in the division for different events.

“[Events] where they can meet other students before they even meet them in grade nine. So that transition is going to work even better for our students. It opens them up, it exposes them to other things, other than just Long Plain,” says Beauchamp, explaining their students experience a shock coming from a moderately sized school in Long Plain to a large secondary school in Portage.

A good number of people showed up to last night’s meeting which saw a variety of questions posed and opinions articulated. For Beauchamp and Tribal Administrator Rosalind Merrick, this was a highlight of the evening. Merrick adds the icing on the cake was when a gentleman from Park West spoke about the positive experience they had partnering with Waywayseecappo.

“That’s what we want for our children,” she notes.

The partnership is still in the discussion stages, with lists of non-negotiables from both the Portage Division and Long Plain needing to be looked over. However, it is an exciting time, says Beauchamp, noting they are moving toward something that will be excellent for all students.

Attendees of last night’s meeting were additionally provided with a list of frequently asked questions regarding the partnership. The points from the list are below.

1. Why is an educational partnership being discussed?

There has been a long standing educational partnership with Long Plain First Nation. This partnership will enhance what has already been proven successful with our high school (Portage Collegiate Institute) and Keeshkeemaquah students.

2. How will this partnership be funded?

Indigenous Services Canada will fund the partnership for all Long Plain First Nation students according to Portage la Prairie School Division cost per pupil rate.

3. What if there is a problem with the educational partnership?

PLPSD and Long Plain First Nation will work to resolve any issues. However, both parties can withdraw from the agreement which renews annually.

4. Will this educational partnership impact school taxes?

No, local rate-payers will not be subsidizing Long Plain Students. Indigenous Services Canada will fund Long Plain Students.

5. Who will be responsible for transportation?

Long Plain will provide transportation for Long Plain students.

6. Who will own Long Plain School?

Long Plain First Nation owns the school. Similar to the Hutterian schools, Long Plain will maintain ownership.

7. Do all students from Keeshkeemaquah attend Yellowquill School?

Students from Keeshkeemaquah attend schools throughout the division.

8. Will this educational partnership put a strain on the existing Student Services?

No, if additional resources are determined they will be added through the funding that Long Plain First Nation receives from Indigenous Services Canada.

-Article & Photo courtesy of Portage Online

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