School division plans public town hall meeting on Bill 64, provincial education changes

The Flin Flon School Division (FFSD) is planning to hold a town hall meeting this month about the possible effects of Bill 64 - a provincial bill that would bring sweeping changes to education and administration across the province.

The FFSD will hold the meeting June 1 at 7:30 p.m., shortly after the board’s regularly scheduled board of trustees meeting.

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“We’re going to do a staff meeting prior, a week before the one for the public. We’re kind of gathering information to put together a Powerpoint for both parties,” said FFSD superintendent Tammy Ballantyne.

“We will be sharing information, link access and all that kind of thing prior to the public meeting.”

Bill 64, labelled the “Education Modernization Act”, was released by the provincial government and the ruling Progressive Conservative (PC) party March 15. Among other changes, the bill and its accompanying K-12 education review would eliminate almost all school divisions and elected school boards in Manitoba - including the FFSD - and combine their duties into a small number of regions. For northern Manitoba, the current plan is to combine all four northern school divisions - the FFSD, Frontier School Division, Kelsey School Division in The Pas and Mystery Lake School Division in Thompson - into one group with no elected board and one representative on a province-wide unelected advisory body.

The Manitoba NDP has committed to delaying the passing of the bill.

The Bill 64 meeting, in terms of overall structure, will be similar to the meetings held earlier this year after the board of trustees proposed a series of changes to Flin Flon schools. Among other service changes, the board had proposed making Ruth Betts Community School an exclusively Kindergarten-Grade 4 school and Ecole McIsaac School a Grades 5-8 school, while extending some programs like French Immersion learning to both facilities. After weeks of fierce debate, the board of trustees eventually voted against the proposal 5-2.

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