Black Gold School Division votes to close historic school near Calmar

Black Gold School Division votes to close historic school near Calmar
WATCH ABOVE: Parents are disappointed after a decision Wednesday to close a 120 year old school south of Calmar. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports.

The Black Gold School Division has voted in favour of closing a 120-year-old school south of Calmar.

New Humble Centre School has 57 students.

“Decisions like this are difficult to make and are often easier to avoid,” trustee Sarah O’Gorman said.

“However, given the current state of affairs within Alberta and the reality of our frozen budget, the time has come to make a decision.”


READ MORE: ‘We’re one of the losers’: Alberta rural school division pens letter over UCP education cuts

A group of community members had been fighting to keep the school open.

They proposed introducing agricultural programming to qualify for more funding and attract additional students from other jurisdictions.

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Trustees said there was no guarantee that community support would help or continue in the long run.

“It may appear we’re making a decision on data, numbers and budgets, but we have actually spent many months listening,” trustee Robyn Steed said, becoming emotional.

But parents argued their proposals were not given our fair chance.

“From the start, the board chose to fail our school and our students,” said parent Kristen Kuhn, adding she was “devastated, disappointed and angry but not at all surprised.”

The board meeting was an emotional one, with several trustees making impassioned statements regarding the decision.

“Two years ago when I began as a trustee, if the question of closing a school — in particular a rural school — came up, I would have rather chopped my arm off than even consider it,” trustee Shawna Ofstie said Wednesday before making the formal recommendation to close the school.

“Change is inevitable and it’s best to embrace it rather than live life in frustration and blame others for things I cannot change,” Ofstie later added.

“Kindness and encouragement will get me much further than bullying or resentment. Not just me, anyone for that matter.”

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

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Board chair Devonna Klaassen admitted there were relationships to mend between parents and the board.

“Absolutely there’s going to be a healing process. We are fully committed to working with them,” said Klaassen.

Adding to the pain of the decision felt by families is the timing. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, classes are cancelled. There is no indication of whether they will reopen before the school closes on June 30.

“[Students] don’t get to say goodbye to their school. They might never get to see their teachers again and there’s a very high likelihood that a lot of them are going to be separated from their friends,” said Kuhn.

According to Klaassen, additional supports like grief counselling will be provided to students and families to help them transition.

Students will be moved to the nearby Calmar Elementary School.

Kuhn told Global News the community is now exploring the possibility of opening a charter or satellite school under the New Humble name.

“It’s important to us that our school and community maintain a higher level of integrity than what has been shown to us from our board and administration.”

Administration has been directed to explore options for the building. The current facility is the third New Humble Centre School on the site in 120 years.

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