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     Page 10    the Athabasca Advocate, Tuesday, March 25, 2003

    Other small schools likely to meet same fate as Waskatenau
       Aspen View school trustees were             Only ardent sentimentalists would School was a prime example, heated           ber, the more funding you receive.
    understandably sombre as they voted         suggest that the small, isolated for almost 45 years with a steam boil-             The system is prejudiced against
    last Wednesday to close Waskatenau          schoolhouses were better than the er insulated with asbestos.                     rural Alberta, from where young
    School at the end of the current school     more centralized community schools         Until this year, money for school      adults have been fleeing to the cities
    year. Any time an institution as vital to   that replaced them. The last two or maintenance and classroom instruc-            where the job prospects are better.
    a community as a school is closed, it's     three generations in rural Alberta tion came from the same pocket, that           Aspen View, for example, expects its
    a sad occasion.                             have all benefitted from better facili- of Alberta Learning. School boards        overall enrollment to drop by 50-100
       The solemnity of the trustees was-       ties, more teachers and a                              had considerable flexi-    students each year for the next seven
    n't based solely out of respect for         broader curriculum than            The G iSt           bility to shuffle money    years. And with a funding system
    Waskatenau School's fate, however;          could ever have hoped         The way schools           between the two pur-      based on utilization, the only way it
    a good chunk of it stemmed from the         to be offered in a one-                                 poses, depending on       can make do is by having fewer
                                                                                  are funded
    trustees' realization that closure votes    room schoolhouse.                                       what they saw as pri-     schools.
                                                                            threatens the future
    on other small Aspen View schools              But while the demise                                 orities. There was nev-      Waskatenau was an obvious choice
    are likely to follow.                       of rural schoolhouses of all small schools er enough money, mind                  as the first casualty, with a low en-
       Decades ago, rural Alberta was dot-      may have come in the           in rural Alberta.        you, but at least they    rollment and suitable classroom space
    ted with one-room schoolhouses              name of better education, the demise had the flexibility.                         available in the nearby towns of
    where a single teacher would deliver        of schools like Waskatenau is coming       As of now, however, education fund-    Smoky Lake and Radway. Tougher de-
    curriculum to as many as a couple           strictly in the name of financial ne- ing comes from Alberta Learning, op-        cisions will have to be made when
    dozen students, spread across sever-        cessity, with no regard at all for the erational funding comes from Alberta       schools like Newbrook, Rochester and
    al grades.                                  quality of education.                    Infrastructure, and never the 'twain     perhaps Grassland become candidates
       As communities grew and trans-              The condition of Alberta's schools is shall meet.' The double-edged sword      for closure, and the options aren't
    portation in and out of them became         rapidly deteriorating. The province- that allowed school boards to rob Pe-        nearly as convenient as they were this
    easier, larger schools emerged and the      wide backlog of funding requests from ter to pay Paul was suddenly                time.
    rural schoolhouses began to quickly         school boards for renovations, up- sheathed.                                         Without a drastic shift in provincial
    disappear.                                  grades and new school construction         To make matters worse, Alberta In-     government philosophy, they're deci-
       Now, wrought-iron signs mark the         now totals into the billions of dollars. frastructure now distributes mainte-     sions Aspen View trustees could be
    location of many old rural schools,         As a result, many divisions operate nance funding based on utilization -          facing before the dust in the boarded-
    like solitary tombstones in vacant          schools in highly inefficient and some- the number of students per square         up Waskatenau School has even set-
    quarter-sections.                           times unsafe buildings. Waskatenau metre of space. The higher that num-           tled.

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