With the Wolf Creek School Division board soon to render its decision on the future of Satinwood School, families who love the rural school say the division has not worked with them to ensure its viability.
Wolf Creek initiated the provincially-mandated school closure process last fall for Satinwood, a process that outlines the steps a division must take in regards to a school on the chopping block.
A public meeting was held last week where members of the school community had their opportunity to discuss the impact of closing the school.
Minutes from the meeting show that again and again, parents stressed that closing the K-6 school would take away an excellent educational environment for their children. The school is located 28 km east of Blackfalds near the Joffre Nova Chemicals plant.
“Really at the end of the day, their decisions really have nothing to do with the kids, it’s all about dollars,” said Lisa Stewart, who heads the school’s parents association.
Cost is one of the reasons that closure is being considered for the school of 38 pupils. With 3.7 teachers plus support staff working at the school, it is about two times as expensive to educate a student at Satinwood as at any other division school.
The other major negative result of such a small enrolment is that the school’s programming cannot match the offerings of other schools, said Wolf Creek superintendent Larry Jacobs.
“As a school population shrinks you don’t have things like dance or music or the same kind of sporting activities.
“Also you start to get limited with the number of teachers available for clubs and whatnot. When a teacher’s teaching three or maybe four grades, there’s a lot of preparation work … so more and more the learning environments can look different,” said Jacobs.
He will provide a report to the board on April 22 from which it will decide the fate of the school.
If the board opts for closure, current Satinwood students will likely be attending elementary school in Lacombe or Clive come September.
Stewart criticized the fact that trustees will be expected to render a decision on the same day they receive Jacobs’ report. Jacobs said the board is already familiar with the Satinwood situation and that they will have ample opportunity to question division administration.
Stewart also criticized the division’s efforts to work with families to make the school more viable going forward.
She said when the parents association proposed expanding the school’s busing catchment area to bring in more students, the division put the work of determining if such a change could work onto the parents’ shoulders.
Jacobs said many alternatives have been explored over the last few years, including expanding the busing area.
While he said it sounds like a good solution, such a move can have negative implications for other schools and communities.
“That has a dramatic impact on the other communities, communities that have established relationships in a school or a pattern of movement into a community for hockey or whatever (else),” he said.