Changes in the School Act were one of the main topics at the latest board of education meeting for School District 58.

As previously reported by the Herald, on Oct. 25, the provincial government announced changes to the School Act to improve education outcomes for First Nations and other Indigenous students attending provincial public schools.

According to the release, there are three main changes in the School of Act that are part of the commitment of the Declaration Act Action Plan. 

The first main change is related to First Nations’ schools-of-choice, and policy to be developed to support that change.

Stephen McNiven, superintendent at SD58, said at the board meeting that the First Nations Schools of Choice Policy will allow Indigenous communities to decide if the current school catchment area assigned is the one they wish to continue with.

“This will be an opportunity for all First Nations if they choose to designate and give priority to that particular school,” he said. “They need to do that before enrolment begins for the 2024 year, so we will make sure that we are on track of getting that information and those conversations with our First Nations communities.”

In addition to that change, the proposed legislation will also ensure that all boards of education across the province establish an Indigenous education council (IEC) in their school district. The change is to ensure that Indigenous people have input into decisions affecting Indigenous students.

“We currently have an Aboriginal Advisory Council, which in many cases coincides well with the current mandate put out by IECs moving forwards,” McNiven said during the meeting. “I think there are some changes that need to be considered. Our local First Nations will advise and approve any targeted dollars for Indigenous students.”

He added that the school district will make sure that there is a collaboration and agreement with the budget items coming up for this year and the years to follow.

As for the last change announced, it ensures that First Nations and Treaty First Nations have the option to apply a model local education agreement (LEA) with boards of education if they request it.

“Any First Nations may choose to negotiate a custom local education agreement, which is what we have in our school district,” McNiven said. “It will be a keen step for districts that don’t have a local education agreement.”