Dance academy

RRC’s sustainability review of MacDonald Island Dance Academy has families nervous about its future

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The Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo (RRC) is considering whether it should continue to fund the MacDonald Island Dance Academy (MIDA) program after seeing enrollment and revenue plummet and expenses rise even before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, some parents with children in the program are concerned about what the review will recommend for the program.

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MIDA was formed in 2012 and is managed, staffed and funded by the RRC. At the time, community demand for dance programs exceeded what was available locally. But the RRC says the program has suffered low revenue and high costs in recent years and is operating with a deficit.

There were 545 dancers, or 81% capacity, enrolled in classes and the program in 2018. But that dropped from 509 dancers and 72% capacity) in 2019 and 280 dancers (64% capacity) just before the pandemic in 2020. Last year saw a slight increase to 343 dancers (68% capacity).

The review will consider changes to how the program is run, including the potential for private studio owners. The review will also look at how other recreation centers in Alberta are running similar programs or if there is still a shortage of youth dance programs in the community. Alternative uses for studio space are also explored. Requests for Proposals (RFPs) are under review.

“The RRC recognizes the sensitivity of this review and the importance of the MIDA program to dancers and families who have invested time and money in the program for several years,” a statement from the RRC said. “The RRC also has a commitment to fiscal responsibility and sustainability to ensure accountability to the RMWB and area residents.

Revise the standard, but families worry about program changes

Karla-Rae Forsey has two children enrolled in MIDA. She said her children would rather quit dancing than move to another studio.

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“Seven years of dancing and she’d rather quit than not dance there with the instructors she’s come to love. It breaks my heart,” she said.

Forsey has PTSD which prevents him from driving. Their children’s father’s work schedule means he can’t always drive them to MacDonald Island, but Forsey has found that MacDonald Island is easily accessible by public transport, taxis or by car. drive with other people. If the program moved to a location she found less accessible, she said that might mean stopping.

“I really hope it’s not just about profit. It’s rude. These are kids who have really come to love the instructors they’ve learned from for years,” Forsey said.

Lyndsay Simms, parent-of-one on the MIDA competitive team, said the exam was “incredibly daunting” for families after the Horse River fire in 2016, the April 2020 floods and the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19.

“The amount the children in our community have had to endure is incredible. They just got back to doing what they love the most, and the rug just got ripped once again,” she said. “We were blindsided.”

The RRC said in a statement that the review was not due to third-party complaints and that there were no complaints about the program.

RRC spokeswoman Theresa Wells said the organization has carried out several facility and program service reviews since 2019 in an effort to become more financially sustainable. Around 30 full-time positions, or 16% of the workforce, were laid off as a result of these reviews.

The review of space at Shell Place has resulted in an RFP for office space and lease negotiations are underway. A request for proposal for labor in the hospitality sector is being evaluated. In 2020, the MI Café space was rented. This year, baseball stadium concessions were leased to the Fort McMurray Giants.

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