Benalto School closing

Benalto School will close despite intense lobbying from parents to save it.

Benalto School will close despite intense lobbying from parents to save it.

Chinook’s Edge School Division board voted to close the school on Wednesday morning because of dwindling enrolment and cost. Board chairman Colleen Butler said while the school provided excellent education its low student numbers — 22 this year — meant the division had to heavily subsidize it.

“If we had voted to keep this school open they would have gone back on to the regular resource allocation of other schools,” she said.

“We can’t afford to keep subsidizing it because that takes resources away from the rest of the division. We have 11,000 other students.”

On a per-student basis, Benalto is significantly more expensive than any other school at $15,918. The next closest is Elnora at $11,273. Of the division’s 28 other schools, the cost-per-student is mostly in the $7,000 to $9,000 range.

Depending on enrolment next year the school, 15 km west of Sylvan Lake, would have gone from its two teachers to one with a possible additional part-time position based on the new funding level.

“The feeling, I think, was the quality of education was probably going to diminish if that was the case,” said Butler. It would be a lot to expect a single teacher to make school plans for seven grades, she added.

Students from the kindergarten to Grade 6 school will be bused to Sylvan Lake’s C.P. Blakely School next school year if they stay in the public system.

Jodie Turner, chair of the Benalto Parent Advisory Council, was among about a dozen parents who attended the school board meeting and tried to buy two more years for the school to see if enrolment climbed.

School supporters went door to door in their community and were convinced that student numbers were poised to grow in coming years based on the number of pre-school children counted.

Turner, who has children in Grade 1 and Grade 5, said students won’t get the same level of attention in larger schools that they enjoyed in Benalto.

Parents believe it was the cost, not quality of education, that motivated the board’s decision.

“It sucks that it came down to dollars and cents rather instead of what the students need and the support they will get,” she said. “There’s no way they can get the same one-on-one attention that they get in Benalto.”

Benalto School was able to accommodate her daughter’s daily speech therapy, something that wouldn’t happen in a big school, she said.

Benalto School’s long-term prospects have been uncertain for a number of years.

A viability study was done in 2007 and updated two years ago. Last fall, a review committee was formed to meet with area residents and gather information for the board to consider before making its decision on whether to close the doors at the end of this school year.

Parents rallied to save their kindergarten to Grade 6 school, which they said was the heart of their small community.

Support for the cause came from Red Deer County, which urged the board to keep the school open to maintain the viability of the hamlet and its attractiveness to young families with school-age children. Rimbey-Rocky Mountain House-Sundre MLA Jason Nixon also went to bat for the school.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Public Schools says that in the absence of additional funds from the provincial government, there was no consideration of using alternate classroom sites in the district. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Red Deer Public Schools launches online engagement process

Red Deer Public schools is seeking community input to help ensure a… Continue reading

Red Deer Rebels defenceman Mason Ward battles with a Medicine Hat Tigers’ forward during the WHL Central Division season opener. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers come back to spoil Red Deer Rebels home opener

It’s been nearly 345 days since the Red Deer Rebels last played… Continue reading

Students walk into Hunting Hills High School, which is one of the Red Deer Public Schools with solar panels on its roof. (Photo by SEAN MCINTOSH/Advocate staff)
Red Deer high school was placed in lockdown following potential threat

Hunting Hills High School was placed in a lockdown Friday after Red… Continue reading

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some details of the provincial government’s 2021-22 budget need to be ‘sorted out’ when it comes to the hospital expansion funding. (File photo by Advocate staff)
More detail needed regarding hospital funding, says Red Deer mayor

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says some information is unclear regarding the… Continue reading

Alberta Health reported two new COVID-19 deaths in Red Deer Friday. (Image courtesy CDC)
Two more deaths linked to Olymel outbreak in Red Deer

Province reported 356 additional COVID-19 cases Friday

An arrest by Red Deer RCMP is facing online scrutiny. No charges have been laid and the incident is still under investigation. (Screenshot of YouTube video)
Red Deer RCMP investigating violent arrest caught on video

Police say officer ‘acted within the scope of his duties’

Thorough sanding of a table top is usually the first step to renewing a finish. Wax contaminants can sometimes still remain on a surface like this after sanding. Cleaning with rubbing alcohol and a rag gets rid of these contaminants without leaving a residue behind. (Photo by Steve Maxwell)
Houseworks: Fixing wood finishes

Q: How can I stop polyurethane from beading up on a mahogany… Continue reading

Need a knife? There are knives of all shapes and sizes at The Kitchen Store.
Hints from Heloise: Finding a good set of kitchen knives

Dear Readers: A good set of knives in the kitchen is a… Continue reading

Runner Melissa Bishop-Nriagu speaks to the media at the opening news conference at the Canadian Track and Field Championships Thursday, July 25, 2019 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

Canadian athletes struggling to find competition as they try to qualify for Tokyo

New York Red Bulls midfielder Jared Stroud, right, vies for the ball against Toronto FC midfielder Jonathan Osorio during an MLS soccer match in Harrison, NJ., Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020. Entering his ninth season with Toronto FC, Jonathan Osorio said his off-season regimen was no different than in the past. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Eduardo Munoz Alvarez
Veteran TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio looks to take it to the next level this season

Veteran TFC midfielder Jonathan Osorio looks to take it to the next level this season

Powell, Lowry help depleted Raptors beat Rockets

Powell, Lowry help depleted Raptors beat Rockets

Edmonton Oilers goalie Mikko Koskinen (19) makes the save on Toronto Maple Leafs' Zach Hyman (11) as Tyson Barrie (22) defends during third period NHL action in Edmonton, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021. Toronto continues to lead the North Division standings, but hard-charging Edmonton is now just four points back on the all-Canadian circuit heading into a three-game series between the teams in Alberta's capital beginning Saturday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Maple Leafs, Oilers set for key three-game series atop North Division

Maple Leafs, Oilers set for key three-game series atop North Division

Angela James stands on centre ice in front of the Toronto Maple Leafs team after being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame before Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday November 6, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
Hall of Famers James, Lowe, Hay named to Order of Hockey in Canada

Hall of Famers James, Lowe, Hay named to Order of Hockey in Canada

Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse talks to center Aron Baynes (46) and guard Norman Powell (24) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Philadelphia 76ers Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Chris O'Meara
Nurse, five Raptors assistants sidelined to due COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Nurse, five Raptors assistants sidelined to due COVID-19 health and safety protocols

Most Read