Anyone who remembers having home school advantage for the annual River Glen Rodeo or simply attending the little school by the river is invited for a farewell hurrah on May 17.
River Glen School in Red Deer will cease to exist at the end of the school year after a five-decade run. While River Glen will close, Gateway Christian School will move into the facility located south of the Kerry Wood Nature Centre on 59th Street.
To mark the finality, a homecoming day is being planned for May 17 at the school, open to all alumni and former school staff. Hundreds are expected, including alumnus and Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer. Fellow alum Naheed Nenshi, mayor of Calgary, has also been invited.
“This is a time to reflect and refresh old acquaintances. It’s a homecoming, an opportunity to come say farewell to the old place and reminisce with former friends and colleagues, and perhaps the odd fossilized staff member like myself that they might remember,” said David Mathias, who has taught at River Glen since 1980.
The school site once served as military barracks, and the first school at the location was housed in an army hut. The River Glen building was constructed in 1960 and named after a nearby dairy farm.
River Glen has never been part of a city-based school division, and has always catered to students living outside of Red Deer. With its kindergarten to Grade 12 orientation and smaller size, some city residents have been attracted to the school in recent years as well, said Mathias.
Because of its rural flavour, the school held its own rodeo for many years, regularly thrashing its urban competition. And nestled as it was between the river, Gaetz Lakes, and the nature sanctuary, the location was ideal for the forestry, wildlife and biology lessons that Mathias taught.
“When you gather it all together and take a look, it’s been a pretty remarkable little place,” said Mathias.
Today, enrolment is barely above 200 students and split classes are the norm. Enrolments have fallen sharply over the last 10 years, as students have headed to larger local high schools where opportunities are more plentiful.
Older River Glen students and some teachers will mostly head to a new secondary school in Penhold in September, and others will be dispersed among schools in Red Deer and outside the city.
The homecoming day will start at noon with a barbecue, followed by remarks, tours and an appearance by the Red Deer Royals band. RSVPs are encouraged before May 1 via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.