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Small Alberta school won’t be shuttered permanently following efforts from community

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward.
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

While all classes have been cancelled in Alberta due to the COVID-19 pandemic, residents in the small town of Round Hill are relieved to hear the doors to their local school won’t be shuttered permanently.

Last Thursday, the Battle River School Division voted to keep Round Hill School, southeast of Edmonton, operational.

The school, serving 86 students from kindergarten through Grade Nine, was one of four schools the board voted on in January to consider closing or consolidate as a result of budget constraints.

The school division said that it had considered postponing last week’s vote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but proceeded because “the Board must continue to look to the future.”

READ MORE: Parents hope to save historic rural school facing funding cuts near Calmar

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Among the efforts made to keep the school open included a proposal from Kyle Nahirniak, the owner of Nahirniak Farms in the area, for what he called a “Renaissance Agriculture Program.”

“Basically what we’re look at is a student-led farm,” Nahirniak told Global’s Ryan Jespersen on March 9th. “We would operate a farm right on the school grounds ideally, where the students form a business structure.”

The proposed operation would potentially see students hatching chicks, growing a community garden and possibly developing a hydroponics program in the classroom.

“We’re teaching them about taking ownership in everything they do, raising animals from young to old, these are important life skills.”

At this time, no school board officials have publicly declared their decision was swayed by the Nahirniak’s proposition.

That doesn’t matter to Nahirniak though, who said he believes it carried weight.

LISTEN BELOW: Farm for the Future: A proposed ag program helps keep an Alberta school open

“One trustee had our package in front of him and he referenced it in his talk leading up to the vote,” said Nahirniak.

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“I think it made a big difference.”