Battle River School Division’s board of trustees decided to close one school, consolidate two others and walk away from another proposed closure. The decisions were made during the regular board meeting in Camrose on Mar. 19.
Allan Johnstone School
Trustee Zsuszanna Hemperger made a motion to close Allan Johnstone School in Hardisty by June 30, 2020. Trustees discussed the motion.
Trustee Laurie Skori stated the school currently has 48 students, below critical enrollment levels in all areas.
She added extra money was allocated to the school and the cost difference is over twice what some other BRSD schools get for staffing.
Skori stated, with the current fiscal situation facing BRSD, the board can’t do this anymore.
Trustee Val Sims noted this was a difficult decision but the board has been using reserves to fund Allan Johnstone and can’t do it anymore.
Trustee Kendall Severson said the low numbers at Allan Johnstone are similar to numbers at previous schools closed by the board.
Trustee Lyle Albrecht noted that efforts to increase enrollment at Allan Johnstone seemed to fail and some families are choosing to send their kids to Sedgewick for schooling. He stated the situation doesn’t look to improve in the future.
Vice-chair Karen Belich stated Allan Johnstone’s numbers are stark and couldn’t see any way forward with them.
When board chair Norm Erickson called the question, trustees voted unanimously to close Allan Johnstone School in Hardisty by June 30, 2020.
Holden and Ryley Schools
Trustees discussed the proposed motion to consolidate the two schools into one K to Gr. 9 school.
Trustee Skori stated that a two-school system like this one requires two things: funds and enrollment, which she noted are both lacking in this situation.
Trustee Albrecht stated consolidation is the best way to address issues in the area.
He also noted it is good to have siblings at the same school, rather than separated. Also, two sets of programs such as parent-teacher interviews won’t be necessary anymore.
Vice-chair Belich noted consolidation means keeping the kids together and is a wise decision for the future.
A motion to consolidate the schools into one K to Gr. 9 school was passed by a 5 to 3 vote. Trustees then discussed which school that would be.
Chair Erickson noted Ryley School already hosts 62 per cent of the kids and the Reilly facility is in better shape.
Trustees unanimously supported the closure of Holden School by June 30, 2020 as Ryley School will take over as the K to Gr. 9 facility.
Round Hill School
A motion to close Round Hill School by June 30, 2020 was defeated by a 3 to 5 vote of the board of trustees.
Trustee Skori said the decision to close schools were very difficult but involved a lot of factors, including enrollment and tight budgets.
“The same old is not working,” she said.
Trustee Albrecht noted that the current coronavirus situation proves homeschooling works for some families and doing things the same way hasn’t worked.
Vice-chair Belich noted the division was able to maintain certain schools for many years but with the current financial situation, trustees have difficult decisions ahead of them.
Chair Erickson stated that the division’s mandate is to ensure all students receive equal opportunity for education and to be fiscally responsible.
He said he looked at what was best for all students and in his opinion that is ensuring there are adequate front line staff.
After the agenda item was finished, Erickson noted the board had difficulty with school closures. “These were very, very tough decisions,” he added.
Stu Salkeld, LJI reporter