Wider busing area suggested for Satinwood school

Busing students from a wider area would be the solution for saving a small rural school east of Joffre, says a parent.

Busing students from a wider area would be the solution for saving a small rural school east of Joffre, says a parent.

Lisa Stewart is among those trying to save Satinwood School of about 45 students from the chopping block within Wolf Creek Public Schools. She said one of the main ways they can save the school is to have the school division agree to a larger or a different catchment area for busing.

Stewart said the school has the capacity for 80 to 100 students, but numbers began to drop off a few years ago because the farm kids are growing up and moving on and no new families are coming in.

The kindergarten to Grade 6 school is east of the Joffre Nova Chemicals plant and about 15 minutes east of Blackfalds.

“It’s really a fabulous little school,” said Stewart.

She said the students score higher than the provincial average for achievement tests, they are encouraged to be independent and be themselves, and they get a lot of attention from staff.

The school is safe, plus there’s a great playground, a skating rink, trees and a field.

Stewart said more families need to move to the area and that may happen with a proposed subdivision slated nearby within Lacombe County.

“And we need busing to bring them this way,” she said.

Stewart said they’ve been told by the school division to think outside the box, but any ideas are being hampered by a lack of busing.

Their last proposal was to offer students the chance to come to the school instead of being bused to go to Red Deer.

Some students are bused to Satinwood, but the catchment area needs to grow or change to allow for more students, said Stewart.

“Our goal is not to lure kids from Blackfalds, but to bring back kids that were leaving Blackfalds to go to other schools,” she said.

School division Supt. Larry Jacobs said they’ve been evaluating the school for the last two or three years.

He said the school will stay open for the next school year.

The board could determine that a school closure process could start next year to examine whether the school should continue for 2014-15.

It could reduce the number of grades or it could become a dual-track school, such as a Christian component, said Jacobs.

“The board has always been hesitant about shifting catchment areas because you don’t want to inadvertently move buses all across the jurisdiction area,” Jacobs said. “It allows the potential for people to start accessing transportation away from their home school.”

ltester@bprda.wpengine.com

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