Journeys Learning Program, an alternative learning facility, which is supported by five school boards, has been given the Alberta School Boards Association’s Premier’s Award for School Board Innovation and Excellence Award.
Journeys is currently in its second year of operation within Red Deer and has hosted a total of 21 high needs students in its time.
Principal of the Journeys Learning Program, Chad Erickson, explained the school currently hosts seven students ages 11-18, whose needs can range anywhere from autism spectrum disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, oppositional defiance disorder or various mental health issues.
“Students are brought to Journeys when all resources have been exhausted in their respective school jurisdictions,” explained Erickson. “They are assessed by an intake committee if it is felt that these vulnerable students are not being well served in their schools.”
Journeys was begun as a partnership between five Central Alberta school districts and shows innovation in the collaboration between the various jurisdictions and includes partnerships with Mental Health Services, Child Services, and the RCMP, officials say.
“We are working very diligently to provide the best opportunities for students and that means every student and what a challenge that can present at times, but we have to be prepared to undertake that challenge,” said Board Chair for Red Deer Public Schools Bev Manning.
“Every jurisdiction in Alberta faces those same challenges we do, so I strongly believe it was a brilliant idea to partner on this program and try to provide for these high needs students the best that we could by pooling our resources.”
Students at Journeys have access to an on-site administrator, a teacher, a social worker/children’s mental health therapist and three full time educational assistants. Each student has a learning support team as well as a plan and services in place tailored to their individual needs.
Principal Erickson explains the main goal of the Journeys program is to have students use the skills they have learned at the program to return to school in their home jurisdictions.
“The first few years we’ve watched students come to us from across Central Alberta and to be able to watch them as they grow with us has been incredible,” said Erickson.
“The best stories that have come from Journeys are those in which we see a student come to us and then be able to successfully transition back to a school in their home district.”