Benalto parents submit charter school application

Benalto School parents have not given up their fight to save their school.

Benalto School parents have not given up their fight to save their school.

An application has been submitted to Alberta Education Minister David Eggen to keep the doors open as a charter school.

Today, parents will meet with a senior Chinook’s Edge School Division official to request the title be turned over to their group while they pursue their charter quest.

Chinook’s Edge School Division board voted in April following a two-year review to close the school citing dwindling enrolment and cost.

Board chairwoman Colleen Butler said at the time that while the school provided excellent education, its low student numbers — 22 this year — meant the division had to subsidize it.

Carol Rambaut, who sat on a review committee to determine the school’s future, is among a group of local residents determined to hold onto their school. They presented their charter school proposal to Eggen on May 12 in a meeting attended by Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Jason Nixon, who has supported keeping the school open.

Rambaut said the province has two months to make a decision on the charter school application.

Parents have done their homework and believe they have built a strong case for a viable local school and that the school division had significantly under-estimated the number of children the school would serve.

Volunteers going door to door have lined up 44 pre-registered students in Grades 1 to 6 and another half dozen or so kindergarten-age children, lured by the kind of education a small school is able to provide.

School supporters have even set up their own website at www.benaltocharter.weebly.com to keep residents informed about the charter plans.

“There is tremendous interest in people looking for that sort of setting for their children,” she said. “Interestingly enough, some of them are home-schooled children in the area (whose parents) have looked at it and gone, ‘That’s exactly what we want for our children.’”

There is precedent for what the parents hope to achieve. Parents in the hamlet of Valhalla near Grande Prairie led a successful drive to keep their school open as a charter school in 2008.

Alberta Education funds charter schools — of which there are 13 in the province — at 70 per cent of the level of regular schools. They must meet provincial education standards and are run as non-profits.

Rambaut said while parents are convinced they have a solid and workable proposal, they are concerned with how quickly the school division is moving to sell off the building.

Parents were unhappy on Tuesday to hear that a school official had led a private school group through the building while classes were in session.

The haste is reinforcing suspicions that the school board had already made up its mind before making the final decision to close the school.

Chinook’s Edge superintendent Kurt Sacher said the board has not received a specific request related to a charter school but will review any proposals for the school.

“If there is a group interested in using that building for whatever reason all they need to do is participate in the process and submit an application,” he said.

Under government rules, a public tendering process must be gone through before a buyer is approved.

“We do expect some interest. Whatever interest we get (the board) goes with the best option,” he said, adding Alberta Education approval is also required.

Sacher said the school division is not moving unusually quickly to dispose of the school.

“There is no rush. This is the normal timeline that a school division goes through when they’ve closed a school and they’ve moved to inform the government that they are going through a tendering process.”

Sacher said the board knows that the community wants to maintain the recreational area around the school and will do its best to honour that wish.

While no formal request for a charter is before the board, parents say the board has long been aware of their plans.

School supporters plan to meet with a senior school official today wednesday to present a formal proposal to assume title of the school. If approved, parents say the building would remain where it belongs, in the hands of the community.

Just Posted

Pro-pipeline protest convoy approaches Ottawa after rolling across country

OTTAWA — A convoy of angry Albertans and other westerners rolls into… Continue reading

Amazon aims to cut its carbon footprint

NEW YORK — Amazon, which ships millions of packages a year to… Continue reading

For sake of pupils’ pupils, China to ban homework on apps

BEIJING — An eastern Chinese province plans to ban teachers from assigning… Continue reading

Parole hearing for Calgary man who strangled wife, buried body in basement

BOWDEN, Alta. — A man who strangled his wife and concealed her… Continue reading

Red Deerians brave the chill to spend Family Day in the new Celebration Plaza

The 2019 Canada Winter Games hub attracted a lot of parents and kids

Historic win for Team Nunavut at Canada Winter Games

Four years in the making boiled down to a collection of firsts… Continue reading

Vancouver duo faced health scare while making Oscar-nominated ‘Animal Behaviour’

TORONTO — Husband-and-wife filmmakers Alison Snowden and David Fine had almost finished… Continue reading

Canadian Eugenie Bouchard drops second-round match against Simona Halep

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard is out of the… Continue reading

Chanel: Iconic couturier Karl Lagerfeld dies in Paris

PARIS — Karl Lagerfeld, Chanel’s iconic couturier whose designs had an unprecedented… Continue reading

Canadian women beat US 2-0 to win inaugural Rivalry Series

DETROIT — The inaugural Rivalry Series was created to give Canada and… Continue reading

Don Cherry blasts Hurricanes as ‘jerks’; team responds with his words on T-shirt

TORONTO — Don Cherry’s latest rant about the Carolina Hurricanes and their… Continue reading

Country star Miranda Lambert reveals secret marriage

NASHVILLE — Country star Miranda Lambert celebrated Valentine’s Day weekend with the… Continue reading

‘Black Panther’ costume designer blazes trail to inspire

LOS ANGELES — Ruth E. Carter is a black woman blazing a… Continue reading

Chicago police: Jussie Smollett assault case has ‘shifted’

Chicago police said Saturday the investigation into the assault reported by Jussie… Continue reading

Most Read