Representatives from the RM of Prince Albert will introduce a resolution to improve broadband connectivity for rural schools when they meet for the upcoming Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM) convention in Saskatoon.
The idea for the resolution sprang from a meeting the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education hosted with municipalities in late November. RM of PA reeve Eric Schmalz will be introducing the resolution, with support from the RM of Garden River and Reeve Ryan Scragg.
Schmalz said rural school internet connectivity is a common issue discussed around local RMs.
“There were several areas identified that they felt needed some attention and one of them was rural connectivity with country schools,” Schmalz said. “After hearing that, there was some data modeling going on there, and it has reduced access in some of the schools—a lot of the schools really. We wanted to make sure that was paid a little extra attention to by the provincial government, so we decided to team up with the RM of Garden River and introduce a SARM resolution to have SARM lobby on behalf of the Rural Municipalities across the province.”
Schmalz lives a kilometer away from East Central School. He can see a fiberoptic line running to the school, but said it still has connectivity issues.
“I want to make sure that students in rural communities, and really students across the province, have the best tools available to enhance their education,” he said.
There are two rural schools in the RM and one in the boundary with the RM of Duck Lake.
“There is a significant number of students that choose rural schools for their education so it’s important to make sure they have every advantage,” he explained.
The SARM Convention runs from March 14 to 16 at Prairieland Park in Saskatoon. SARM members have debated rural broadband and connectivity issues at previous conventions. Schmalz said this is an issue the organization could deal with quickly.
“There have been one or more resolutions introduced previously at SARM conventions as far as the entire province, rural connectivity of the entire province,” he explained.
“Keeping that in mind that we understand that the entire province is a large and massive undertaking that may not get done right away. However, this area is something we feel is a small piece that could be tackled right away.”
The item will be voted on during the resolution portion of the convention on Wednesday, March 15, with Scragg speaking in support of it.
“They will introduce the resolution, I will speak to it, Ryan will speak in support of it and then it is put to the vote by the members in attendance,” Schmalz explained.
The resolution, which is available at the SARM website reads: “Whereas there currently exists a disparity with respect to internet connectivity between urban and rural schools in the province of Saskatchewan. Whereas there is a need to bridge the connectivity gap of broadband service provided to rural schools when compared to urban schools. It is crucial for rural students to have equitable access to technology and learning opportunities.
“Be it Resolved that SARM lobby the provincial government, including the Ministry of Education and all internet service providers in Saskatchewan, to jointly review and make recommendations on expanding broadband service to rural schools.”
They have reached out to local MLAs and will continue to do so on this issue. Their intention by submitting this resolution is to ensure the children of our rural communities have the best access to educational tools and information, so that they receive the best education available and can be successful in all future endeavors.
Schmalz connected the issue to rural living.
“We want to continue to support rural communities and make sure that rural living is a viable option for people who feel they want to have that,” he said.