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
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.