The Golden Hills School Division is once again looking at the idea of a K-12 school for the Wheatland East area.
Last week the Golden Hills School Division Board moved to close the doors of the Pontmain School in Trochu and transfer the programs to Trochu Valley School. The board also voted to close the Grade 9-12 program at Central Bow Valley School. The approximately 55 students, including 40 from Siksika, will be accommodated at Standard School.The board has also re-opened the idea of a stand-alone K-12 school to be centrally located in the Wheatland East area.Last year the idea of a K-12 school in the area was scrapped. One of the reasons according to board chair Ron Kenworthy was the concern of elementary students spending long hours on school busses. He says this time the plan does not include younger students attending Rockyford School.“We eliminated Rockyford from the equation,” said Kenworthy. “It doesn’t eliminate the ride times for Grade 7-12, but it does for the K-6.”He adds the Rockyford School facility is in good shape, receiving upgrades in the not too distant past.To move forward on the idea, the board is contracting an independent architect to look at a cost recovery analysis. The architect will also complete a study looking for a central location on sites that are owned by the county, as well as lands presently owned by the school division. They will also look at proposed sites that fall on other lands.Kenworthy hopes these studies will be available by April 20 for a capital planning meeting by the board. The board then plans to post the study online for public scrutiny.The board has scheduled a sort of open house on Friday, April 24 at the boardroom of the school division office to allow parents and stakeholders to provide feedback on the concept of building a K-12 for the area, and the potential site.“We’ll look at people’s submission, and then on April 28 the board will look into amending the Capital Plan to include a K-12 school, and also name the specific location,” said Kenworthy. “We have to do this early this year because May 1 is the deadline for submission of Capital Plans to the Department of Education.Kenworthy is excited about the plan, especially because many of the ideas came from the grassroots.“I really have to give credit to the people in the communities, for really coming together and showing us we can do this with their cooperation,” said Kenworthy. “Often a stumbling block is communities not working together, but these ones are.” “One thing that really excites me is once we get this thing approved, and then we can start talking about trades. We could make this a lighthouse school, or a magnet school dealing with some of the oil companies.” He says this has the potential to attract students interested in the trades from neighbouring communities such as Strathmore, Bassano or Siksika.“There are a lot of really good possibilities out there,” said Kenworthy. “What we are doing is taking a problem and creating opportunity.”If the K-12 school plan is included in the Capital Plan, there is still no guarantee it will go ahead, especially in light of economic times. Last week the Alberta government released its budget.“The Minister of Education has said there will be no new capital projects. They also said they would look at things that would be creative and innovative. Our board believes the consolidation of the schools of Wheatland East (K-12) would be creative and innovative, because what we would hope would occur, is a cost recovery of 13 years. If you were in business you would go to this immediately.”The boardroom at the Golden Hills office will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on April 24 for parents and stakeholders to give feedback on the plan for a K-12 school in the Wheatland East area, as well as site selection.Interested parties can book a time by calling the Golden Hills School Division offices at 403-934-5121. Interested parties can also provide feedback via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through regular mail at #75 435A Highway #1 Strathmore AB, T1P 1J4.