Fate of Benalto school to come in April

With enrolment dropping to 21 students this fall at Benalto’s elementary school, a decision on whether or not to close the school will be made next April.

With enrolment dropping to 21 students this fall at Benalto’s elementary school, a decision on whether or not to close the school will be made next April.

Kurt Sacher, superintendent with Chinook’s Edge School Division, said in April the board will decide to either keep the kindergarten to Grade 6 school open as is, or reduce the number of grades at the school likely to kindergarten to Grade 3, or close the school entirely.

Sacher said, regardless of the decision, Benalto School will stay open for the entire 2015-16 school year.

He said the decision will be made in April to give parents and students time to prepare if the board decides to close the school.

Sacher will be preparing a detailed report on the school for the board to consider in April.

A public meeting will be held in Benalto prior to the board making its decision. The meeting will probably be in March.

He said multiple meetings will also be held in the community during the school year with the school council.

A two-year viability study on the school was just completed that focused on increasing enrolment.

It was the school’s second viability study through the years.

Sacher said the school council and local parents worked hard to boost enrolment.

“It’s just been a gradual decline. It don’t think it’s anybody’s fault. It just is what it is,” Sacher said.

Enrolment climbed in recent years and then fell.

In 2009-10, enrolment was at 49 students and reached 52 in 2010-11. In 2011-12 enrolment fell to 51 and then sunk to 41 in 2012-13. In 2013-14, the student count dropped to 39 and it was 27 in 2014-15.

The school board recently approved a motion to develop a review committee for Benalto school which will include the superintendent, at least one school staff member, and a minimum of one member of Benalto School Council. School board trustees Jackie Swainson and Sheldon Ball will also sit on the committee.

Students in Grade 7 and higher in Benalto attend school in Sylvan Lake. Currently some elementary students in Benalto also go to school in Sylvan Lake.

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