You guys are destroying lives: Adult students feel abandoned after CBE ends their learning program

\You guys are destroying lives\: Adult students feel abandoned after CBE ends their learning program
Students decry closure of Chinook Learning Services building
The decision by Calgary Board of Education (CBE) officials to close the Viscount Bennett Centre and transfer Chinook Learning Services programs into three existing high schools has left mature students out of luck.

The relocation of the programs into various high schools will restrict enrollment to students who are under the age of 20.

Students decry closure of Chinook Learning Services building

According to CBE board members, funding is not available to keep the Viscount Bennett Centre operating and the programs will be transferred to new locations in the fall.

The reasons now (are) due to the building, explained Trina Hurdman, chair of the CBE board of trustees. The building that it is currently accommodated in probably should have been closed years ago. It is in pretty rough shape and its just not a safe learning environment anymore for students so this will be the last year that that building will be open.

Unfortunately, at this time, we arent seeing any other options that would allow us to keep adult education within the Calgary Board of Education. Our mandate under the school act is very clear that we are required to educate students up to the age of 19 and that it is the job of post-secondary institutions to educate mature students over that age.

Hurdman says there were concerns regarding the introduction of mature students into high schools. We have had engagements with our communities around that and weve heard very clearly that a lot of people dont feel comfortable with students over the age of 20 being in the same buildings as our younger students.

Sean McIntosh, who is currently enrolled in classes at Chinook Learning Services, calls the decision to end programs for those who are 20 or older a shame.

It will affect many people, said McIntosh. Its going to affect me because I wont be able to get my high school diploma which I was planning on doing if I didnt get into SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology).

I just cant imagine how many students, how many lives are going to be impacted because this place is shutting down and because, for some arbitrary reason, they want to segregate the population to different age ranges. I dont understand that.

Lindsay Fortin will be permitted to continue her education at Lord Beaverbrook in the fall as her 20th birthdays falls weeks after the September 1 cutoff but she says will be burdened with an extensive course load that she will need to complete in less than a year.

Theres nowhere else for us to go because Bow Valley (College) is overcapacity and you have to take entrance exams and you have to pay tuition, said the 19-year-old student. My dream has always been to go to post-secondary. Ive always had academic ambitions and the thought of using that money that Id saved up for my post-secondary on a high school education just seemed, honestly, stupid. It didnt make any sense.

(Chinook Learning Services) has given me an opportunity and a place and a safe space to learn and to excel.

The CBE has yet to determine how many staff members will be affected by the transition of the program to high schools and the removal of mature students but the board expects to save $1 million each year in operational costs with the closure of Viscount Bennett.

Were facing a $35 million shortfall so any money that we would save through this would be put towards our mandate of K to 12 education, said Hurdman.

Hurdman commended the students who voiced their concerns to the board on Tuesday and says she does sympathize with the students impacted by the change.

Im so grateful that they value education so much and that they found such great value in the service that we were providing and Im really sorry that were not able to provide it going forward.

Chinook Learning Services students speak with Trina Hurdman, chair of the CBE board of trustees, ahead of Tuesdays board meeting

Calgary fire crews are at the scene of a fire at a business in the citys southeast.

Sean McIntosh, 27, a student at the Chinook Learning Services says the closure of the building that houses the program could delay his future plans. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

Calgary Board of Education trustees heard Tuesday from adult students worried about plans to close the building that houses their continuing education programs.

Sean McIntosh, 27, was one of the students who addressed the board, saying he returned to Chinook Learning Services two semesters ago after being out of school for the past 11 years.

“It means the world to me,” he said. “The teachers are great and Ive made friends. I wish Id found Chinook Learning Services a lot sooner, my life would be a lot different.”

McIntosh said he hopes to one day enrol in the culinary program at SAIT and the closure could delay or derail those plans.

The Viscount Bennett Centre — which houses Chinook Learning Services — is slated to close in August.

“It probably should have been closed years ago, it is in pretty rough shape,” CBE board chair Trina Hurdman told reporters. “Its just not a safe learning environment anymore for students.”

Officials estimate the move will save a minimum of $1 million. The CBE is facing a $35-million shortfall and because of that, Hurdman said theyre not seeing a lot of options that would allow them to keep the building open.

She notes the CBE is only mandated to provide education to those up to the age of 19.

“It requires an immense amount of bravery and passion about education to come and speak to the board of trustees,” she said.

Calgary Board of Education chair Trina Hurdman says the closure will result in savings of $1 million. (Andrew Brown/CBC)

“Im so grateful that they value education so much and that they found such great value in the service that we were providing. Im really sorry that were not able to provide it going forward.”

CBE will continue to offer high school upgrade courses to students 16 to 20 years old at James Fowler High School, Lord Beaverbrook High School and Forest Lawn High School.

Hurdman said any money saved through the closure of the Viscount Bennett Centre will go to their mandate of K-12 education.

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