By Cole Parkinson
After the previous school year saw limited community members allowed in schools across Horizon School Division, board members have begun looking at the possibility of starting rentals again.
As COVID-19 restrictions and safety measures continue to start and stop in Alberta during the beginning of the school year, the board had a chance to discuss how to proceed with facility rentals across the division at their Aug. 30 regular meeting.
“Last year, with COVID, you made a motion to cease the use of your facilities by outside groups. There were all sorts of health measures in place due to the pandemic and social distancing, cohorting measures, and the motion you made last year was to cease community use of facilities for the 2021 school year,” explained Wilco Tymensen, superintendent of schools.
While that motion was made amid the height of the pandemic, with the new school year, the board had to decide if they wanted to allow people back into their schools.
“That motion ended as of a week ago, so my understanding and the message I have sent to schools is that for the most part, Alberta Health has also eased off of a large number of restrictions. All you had to do was go downtown (Aug. 26-28) and you’d see Cornfest. Cohorts and social distancing don’t seem to be a part of the current plan in place by the government,” added Tymensen.
In Horizon’s policy Community Use of Facilities JG, it states “the Horizon School Division believes that school facilities are a community resource that should be made available to members of the community for educational and recreational activities.”
“Schools are allowing parents back into the building and there have been changes made to go back to more normal measures. Obviously, they’re still measuring for caseloads and the province is looking at hospitalization rates and so on. Things may be fluid and change in a week’s time, but principals have asked if people can use our facilities after hours or on the weekend like in the past. My message has been — the board’s motion has ended and they are having a meeting today,” added Tymensen.
In terms of fees, the policy has three categories for rental fees — 1. exempt from paying rental fees, 2a. profit is not the intent and 2b. private functions and those users whose intent is making a profit.
Exempt from paying rental fees include activities of the board, meetings/activities sponsored by school councils, meetings of division staff and their respective union, general meetings or activities of the Community Health Association, registered not-for-profit organizations (i.e. Boy Scouts, Guides, 4-H clubs), meetings/small functions of recognized community services clubs (less than 20 people), community functions sponsored by local community recreational commissions (less than 20 people) and government agencies (i.e. emergency services).
Groups in the second category include large social functions of recognized community service clubs (more than 20 people), large community functions sponsored by local community recreational commissions (more than 20 people), activities sponsored by non-recognized community recreational commission/community service clubs (i.e. dance or drama groups, choirs, cultural organizations), industrial or business athletic groups and leagues for purposes authorized by the school principal and concerts and other functions sponsored by service clubs and other local non-profit organizations where an admission fee is charged to help defray expenses and/or for charitable work in the community, as authorized by the school principal.
Groups in the third category are commercial enterprises, private individuals and all other groups not included in the first category.
Rental areas include classrooms ($20 per hour for 2a), library ($40 per hour for 2b), cafeteria ($40 per hour for 2b), kitchen ($20 per hour for 2a and $40 for 2b), gymnasium under 450m2 ($20 per hour for 2a and $40 for 2b), gymnasium over 450m2 ($20 per hour for 2a and $60 for 2b), and sports field, striping not included ($80 per hour for 2b).
“Are you comfortable as a board to allow principals to make that decision again, like you normally do, about people coming in and using it?” Tymensen asked.
“As long as they follow the province guidelines, we just move forward with what the province is saying,” replied Bruce Francis, vice-chair of the board.
The board members agreed to continue following any provincial mandated regulations around COVID-19. At the moment across the province, temporary measures include mandatory masking for all indoor public spaces and workplaces, though schools are not required to implement masking.
As of Sept. 4, Horizon School Division is “strongly recommending” masks for all staff and students in school common areas or where social distancing is not possible.
Masks are mandatory for all bus students, division office and maintenance office (except when staff are in workstations), and for visitors, including parents who enter Horizon schools, the division office and maintenance office. All Horizon schools have also postponed any and all indoor public events, and are encouraging schools to limit indoor school-wide events.