Parents request transfer of Benalto school

Benalto School supporters have formally requested the building be turned over to them. Those trying to save the school want to assume the title as part of their bid to maintain it as a charter school.

Benalto School supporters have formally requested the building be turned over to them.

Those trying to save the school want to assume the title as part of their bid to maintain it as a charter school.

An application is already before Education Minister David Eggen, who has two months to make a decision.

Whether Chinook’s Edge School Division is willing to turn the school over to a community-led group will now be up to the board. The next meeting the proposal can be discussed is June 22.

Carol Rambaut, the president of the hamlet’s booster club, was among a group of Benalto School parents who met on Wednesday at the school with Chinook’s Edge associate superintendent for corporate services Shawn Russell to make the purchase offer, which would be for a token $1.

“Because (the school division) said they had no interested parties at that point, we thought we better scramble and get ours in,” said Rambaut.

The school board voted in April to close the school following this school year because of low enrolment and high per-student costs.

Those fighting to save the school have been concerned about how quickly the school division appears to be moving to dispose of the school. A tour of the school during class hours earlier this week by a private school upset parents and students.

Some of the fears that the school division was fast-tracking efforts to unload the school building were eased after Wednesday’s meeting. However, parents are determined to keep their proposal on top of the pile.

Charter schools — of which Alberta has about a dozen — are run by a non-profit group and funded by Alberta Education and must meet provincial education standards.

Russell said he assured Benalto supporters that the school division is following the legal process set out when disposing of property. A pair of appraisals are required before tender documents are prepared and advertised for a month.

A final decision will be made by the board in public, although discussions on offers will be held in camera, which is typical when legal, land or personnel issues are being considered.

Should the school go through the full tendering process, it is unlikely the board could make a decision before September given the summer break.

While it appeared the school division was moving quickly, the process to sell off assets is detailed and takes considerable time, he said.

The school division can dispose of property without going to tender if the new owner is another school board, municipal, federal or provincial government or a community association and other non-profit group. Ministerial approval is required before any deal is made.

Red Deer County has been advised of the school’s availability and council will discuss it in camera following Tuesday’s meeting. The county had voiced its support for keeping the school open.

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