PBHS looks to strengthen community ties

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The first-ever  Butte Fest at Picture Butte High School included a spirited street hockey game including students, staff and community members.

PICTURE BUTTE – There were plenty of smiles on display for the evening event, but there was more to the first-ever Butte Fest than fun and games.

The combined street hockey challenge and chili cook-off was part of a concerted effort by Picture Butte High School to boost the level of community engagement.

Principal Mark Lowe says schools have a critical role to play in small communities and Palliser’s Grade 7-12 school in Picture Butte is striving to become that hub once again.

“What came through to us loud and clear through our reviews and our accountability pillars was that relationships were lacking with the community,” he says. “We fully own that criticism and are taking every step we can to improve upon those relationships and become a better community partner.”

At a fall retreat, staff was asked to identify ways to increase community involvement in the school. One of those suggestions was to host more events open to the entire community, with the added bonding experience of breaking bread together.

The traditional Meet the Teacher evening to kick off the new school year was combined with a Fan Appreciation Night for the volleyball season opener and the number of participants was heartening.

“It was really cool to see all the parents and community members coming in and interacting at the school,” says Lowe of the event, which had a distinctive tailgate party atmosphere, complete with free barbecue.

The school has attempted to schedule a community event every month, including a curling bonspiel, Halloween activities and a Sweetheart Skate. They’re also looking to do a better job of letting the community know about such events in advance, including the families of students at nearby schools which feed into PBHS.

“It’s a good opportunity for some of these families to get to know us and we can get to know them as well,” says Vice-Principal Greg Thompson, who is new to the school this year.

Engagement requires two-way involvement. While PBHS students have helped out at community events previously, Lowe says they are looking to step things up in that regard as well.

“We are opening ourselves up to the community, saying ‘we have more to give, if you tell us what you need,’ ” he says.

Picture Butte High School has also worked the whole premise into a new course this year for Grade 7 students, Community Building. Lowe says the students will use different elements of their curriculum to get more involved with the community and represent the school in a positive manner.

“Our intent is to create global citizens here and some of that community work is an important part of that,” adds Thompson. “We are giving those students the opportunity to become leaders in their community.”