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An Edmonton Public Schools trustee wants the province to put up funds to help incoming refugee students.

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During Tuesday’s board meeting, Ward F trustee Julie Kusiek tabled a notice of motion for Edmonton Public Schools to advocate to the provincial and federal governments, urging them to provide a per-student special allocation of funding for refugee students.

Kusiek told media following the board meeting that due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine people are seeing a “mass exodus” of people from the country who are leaving and an increasing number of Ukrainians applying for refugee status in Canada.

“As Edmontonians and as Edmonton Public Schools, we want to do our part to create a welcoming environment for any children who are coming here as refugees,” said Kusiek.

“This motion is anticipating that there will be refugee children from Ukraine, as well as from other conflicts in the world, and we want to be partners and do some teamwork with the Government of Alberta, with the Government of Canada and saying, ‘Hey , we’re here to help with the schooling, can you help by providing some funding to enable us to do a really great job of that?’”

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The motion is personal for Kusiek who is a “full blood” Ukrainian. She said her great-grandparents de ella came from Ukraine under duress and Canada became home for her family de ella and many many Ukrainians in Alberta.

She said it makes sense that there will likely be many Ukrainian refugees coming to Alberta due to having friends or family in the province.

“Being able to provide that supportive environment through our schools to parents so that their kids can be in school, they can work at earning their income, getting settled in a new place that is safe for them while things are still uncertain in their home country of Ukraine,” said Kusiek.

Kusiek added the motion would also apply to refugees from Afghanistan and others fleeing conflict.

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The provincial government currently funds school divisions on a weighted moving average, which counts student enrollment over three years rather than a one-year count in an attempt to provide more predictability. The funding model has been criticized by the Edmonton public due to the division’s fast-growing student population.

Kusiek said the weighted moving average is not responsive to fluctuations that happen mid-year in the division’s enrollment.

“We’re expecting a large number of students to potentially be coming into the division, we need a tool that is more responsive to that,” she said.

“That’s what this motion is also about in saying, ‘Hey, this is important, we want to be a team player here’ and one of the best ways to do that is to work with both the province and the Government of Canada on ensuring that there is great funding there for providing those supports to all children who are here in our schools.”

Board chairwoman Trisha Estabrooks said she believes the motion is “really good” and she looks forward to the debate and further discussion about it at the next meeting on April 19.

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