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

Just Posted

Team Alberta takes wheelchair basketball gold

Team Alberta edges Team Ontario in 51-48 thriller

Biathlon women sweep the podium for second time

Biathlon women took top four spots in Thursday’s 10-km race

Red Deer firefighter is recovering, thanks community for support

Firefighters who help together, stick together. Red Deer firefighter medic Ben Barthel… Continue reading

Petroleum producers speak to Red Deer & District Chamber of Commerce

Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers brings recommendations

Science fair is around the corner

Central Alberta Rotary Science Fair happens March 29 and 30.

Ponoka host to Bayer Crop Science seed innovations trade show

The company held a trade show with seed crop science industry partners at the ag event centre

Gaudreau snaps goal drought to help Flames double up Islanders 4-2

CALGARY — The drought is over for Johnny Gaudreau. Gaudreau’s first goal… Continue reading

Federal government set to develop code of conduct for sport in Canada

OTTAWA — The federal government is developing a code of conduct for… Continue reading

Jay Baruchel has trained the dragon, now he’s letting go with ‘The Hidden World’

TORONTO — The first time actor Jay Baruchel stepped into a recording… Continue reading

Hockey ref says AC/DC support is giving him motivation in Alzheimer’s fundraiser

Enthusiastic AC/DC fan Steve McNeil says he’s feeling inspired to push even… Continue reading

Gardening: What are you planting in 2019?

What’s new in plants for 2019? Checking catalogues, greenhouses and stores will… Continue reading

Opinion: I spy another energy hypocrite

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. The mittens provided to… Continue reading

Canada’s bobsleigh team races World Cup on Calgary home track facing closure

CALGARY — Canada’s skeleton and bobsled teams will race a World Cup… Continue reading

Most Read