Continual low enrollment numbers at Satinwood School have prompted Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board of trustees to consider closing down the school after a review process.
“The process anticipates that the school would stay open for the remainder of the school year, so even though the board receives the report in late spring or early summer, the school does go until the end of June. That is, of course, if they decide to close the school. This process also allows for grade configuration or other modifications to the site,” said Superintendent Larry Jacobs.
With a population of 137 students and triple grading, the trustees are looking at whether they can justify keeping the school open with the expenses it takes.
The Satinwood School community has campaigned in many different fashions to convince the trustees there were still options to improve enrolment.
“I would just like to commend the Satinwood community for the great job they did trying to think outside the box these last two to three years in trying to keep their school viable,” said trustee Donna Peterson.
Satinwood, which has been around for more than 80 years, generates $180,000 through its students’ enrolment and approximately the same amount was subsidized by WCPS through direct and indirect division funding to keep the school operating.
To educate a student at Satinwood costs twice as much as schools in the rest of the division — where it’s between $4,000 and $5,000 — and trustee Lorrie Jess pointed out in the last four years the school board has funded more than $200,000 to the school.
“How can we justify keeping it open and still spend all that money for that amount of students when other schools could use it as well?” she asked the other trustees.
Jacobs feels the decline in the number of students attending the school will remain consistent for the next several years, equating to four or five students per grade; a trend similar to what he sees happening in the community around the school. “It’s very much a rural farming community, but the farms are not being transferred down to younger families, we’re seeing across the whole province,” said Jacobs.
A proposed development in the Satinwood community was looked at but Peterson said it didn’t provide much hope for the school in the near future and Jacobs believes people wouldn’t be living there for several years. “And then there are no guarantees that there’s students of age,” said Jess.
“I think it’s unfortunate that we’ve arrived at this situation as the school has had such a strong track record of academic success, it’s had a track record of building the skills that these young people need. It’s been a core to the community,” said trustee Bob Huff.
“But I think it’s important the community understands that we as trustees do believe that the school has done some great and wonderful things,” he added.
Satinwood students have usually performed well on Provincial Achievement Tests and there are many extracurricular opportunities available. “So from that perspective Satinwood functions well,” said Jacobs.
If the school closes, the students will be commuting to Lacombe.