Board to discuss Wapella School’s future

January 18, 2016 8:09 am
Kevin Weedmark

The Southeast Cornerstone School Division board of education will be discussing the future of Wapella School at the Jan. 19 board of education meeting.

The board will decide whether to continue to consider closure or grade discontinuance at Wapella.
If the school board decides to consider closure, there will be a meeting of electors called, and the board would look for additional submissions before making a final decision. Any change would take place after the end of the current school year.

A group representing the community met with the board of education Jan. 7 to present the community members’ views.

“We did a survey and we got the parents and the community to write letters giving their views, and we had a public meeting,” says Sandy Hintz, Wapella’s mayor and a member of the committee representing the community.

“We have unanimous support from the community as a whole that we want to keep our school. Right now we’re K-6 actively, and we have grades 7, 8, and 9 temporarily discontinued. The option is there to reinstate those grades.”

Hintz said he believes that Wapella School should be viable in the long term, as there are more students in the younger grades, and a large number of pre-school children. “There are lots of kids in the younger grades, and we have 31 kids coming up in the next four years,” he said. “We could possibly grow more.

“There are also bigger grades coming into grades 7, 8, and 9. The closure of 7-8-9 was supposed to be temporary, but the parents of kids in Grade 6 don’t know what to do because they don’t know what the school board is going to do.”

Hintz says the review of the school has been upsetting for people in Wapella.

“People are really upset—we’re all upset,” he said. “Even a grade discontinuation is going to seriously affect us.

“We would like to make the school K-9 again, but need the board to work with us for that.”

He said the committee didn’t get a lot of feedback from the board following the presentation last week.

“Their only comment is we’re under the numbers, but part of the reason is because of the temporary closure of those three grades.

“We have more in the younger grades, and it will be awfully disheartening if we get 10, 12, or 13 kids in a grade and they can’t go to school here.

“I hope the school board comes back to us and says we can keep our school. It’s an important part of our community.”

If the board votes to discontinue the review process on Jan. 19, that will be the end of the process. If it does not, the review will go on for two months, during which there will be opportunities for input from the community.

Hintz says he hopes the board of education got the message that Wapella parents want to keep their school open.

“When we went to the board, we took the letters from the parents and the community members,” he said. “A lot of people explained in those letters just how important the school is to them, and how important it is to keep it open. We also told them we have the numbers to support this.”

He said he feels that the school is vital to the future of Wapella.

“I live in this town because I want to live here,” he said. “I want to enjoy the small town life. If that means my kids go to school with eight other kids, that’s fine.

“The board needs to support the people who want to live here, who believe this town has a future, who are trying to make this a go.

“Wapella isn’t like other towns where they have looked at school closure. We’ve grown more in the last five years than we did in the previous 30 years. We do have opportunity to keep growing, being next to Moosomin.

“You’ve got to have hope, you have to believe in the future of your town. We have people who are working their butts off to keep this town growing.

“If they close the school, it’s going to cripple us.”

After Tuesday’s board of education meeting, there will be a community meeting in Wapella to discuss next steps.

“When they make the decision we will take that decision back to the community, and the community will decide which direction we want to take,” said Hintz.

A public meeting to discuss the board of education’s decision has been organized for Thursday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.