Over 50 concerned residents met with Wolf Creek Public Schools superintendant Larry Jacobs recently in an effort to find solutions for the viability of Satinwood School.
A meeting at the school on Jan. 25 saw that community members are ready to fight to keep their school viable going forward.
Satinwood School is located approximately 20 kms east of Red Deer and houses 54 students from kindergarten to Grade 6.
It was the third meeting between members of the community, school and school division in hopes of finding a solution for keeping the over 30-year-old facility in the community for many years to come.
Jacobs said the focus at this time is not to consider the school closing but to look at ways to help increase the enrolment numbers. He said the school board has a process in place to look for ways to keep the school viable as they feel small rural schools are very important to their division.
“The process we have in place is designed to give the board a look at the challenges a school is facing and why the enrolment numbers are declining,” said Jacobs.
“We don’t just go in and say we are closing a school. We try and work with the community to find options to improve enrolment numbers and keep it sustainable.”
Jacobs added he went to the board late last year and was approved for an extra $60,000 in funding for Satinwood for the next school year to give more time to find other options.
The meeting was a way for Jacobs to work with community residents and share information on what can be done going forward. He told residents to write local politicians and share with them the importance of Satinwood School and small rural schools.
“The opinion of the school board is they want to maintain small rural schools,” said Jacobs. “We know there is a huge importance to residents for their rural schools.”
The school board will look at the budget again next year and see what needs be done to keep the school viable.
The next big step in the process is to see what happens with a proposed subdivision in the area as Jacobs predicts it would be a big help with a possible increase in the enrolment numbers at the school. A meeting is planned at Haynes Community Hall about the subdivision in the coming months.
Education Assistant for the school, Vickie Fox, said parents of young children were also at the meeting because those potential students would be the second and third generations of families who attended the school.
Satinwood principal Ted Jardine said their school always receives great support from the community and to see that many people at the meeting was no surprise.
“Our school council has started to form committees to see what can be done to keep Satinwood viable,” said Jardine. “One of those committees will be committed to writing letters to different politicians. There will also be more done to make sure we are getting all children within our boundaries coming to the school.”
He added they will be also looking at more ways to showcase the school, which boasts some great test achievement scores compared to the provincial average.
The school needs to raise its enrolment numbers is because the cost per student to Wolf Creek Public Schools at Satinwood is over $9,000, compared to an average across the division of over $6,000. The school closing would mean a $500,000 savings to the school board.
One of the major concerns for parents if the school closes was the commute a lot of the young children would face if Satinwood wasn’t there. The next closest elementary school would be in Lacombe and children would be on a bus for over two hours each day.
“It would mean putting a six-year-old on a bus for an hour and 15 minutes to an hour and half one way every day,” said Jardine. Jacobs said if the school does have to close, the school board will look at every opportunity to make sure student commutes are as minimal as possible.
The school’s parent council will also be looking to more corporate support and finding other ways to fund school activities in an effort to keep costs down.