INNISFAIL – Chinook’s Edge School Division has written a letter to the minister of education expressing concerns about the impact of possible changes in Internet service to some of the division’s more remote rural schools, including in Cremona, and Reed Ranch east of Olds.
In the letter sent on Jan. 12, chair Colleen Butler says the possible change of ownership of the SuperNet – a fibre connectivity network used to access the Internet – could create significant challenges for a number of rural school divisions, including Chinook’s Edge.
“We have become aware that several large school divisions are moving away from SuperNet, which leaves other rural school divisions, such as ours, in a much weaker bargaining position,” said Butler.
“Although other options exist along our main corridor, the challenges are greater when we look at our more remote schools in communities such as Cremona, Delburne, Spruce View, Elnora and Reed Ranch.
“We are concerned about the inequity that may result regarding connectivity in our schools and the impact that this will have on our students.”
Chinook’s Edge recently moved its phone system over to one that relies on SuperNet, she noted.
“Had we known about this challenge on the horizon, we may have made a different decision,” she said.
Stephanie McLean, the minister of Service Alberta who is responsible for the operations and future of SuperNet, responded to the letter on Feb. 22 that service continuity for public facilities, such as the province’s schools, remains a priority and her department is also actively working with the federal government who is taking steps to strengthen rural broadband access across Canada.
She added her department is working closely with Alberta Education to discuss matters affecting schools, and will continue to update school divisions regarding ‘this essential public service.”
Karyn Barber, associate superintendent of system services with Chinook’s Edge, said the loss of SuperNet connectivity could be detrimental to students.
“If there is one thing that we are really conscious of, it’s that we don’t want to create disparity amongst our students in our school division depending on where they live and therefore what their connectivity is,” said Barber.
“More and more in education we’ve been thinking outside the box and coming up with ways for kids to access programs and courses digitally or using technology. If that was to become a challenge for some of our rural kids, it really would create a have-have not situation in our division for our students.”
With files from Johnnie Bachusky
Colleen Butler, chair of the board of trustees for the Chinook’s Edge School Division
“We have become aware that several large school divisions are moving away from SuperNet, which leaves other rural school divisions, such as ours, in a much weaker bargaining position.”