Board considers discontinuing grades 7-9 at Wapella

January 26, 2016, 2:06 am
Kevin Weedmark


The Southeast Cornerstone School Division is not considering closing Wapella School, but it is considering permanently discontinuing grades 7-9, making Wapella a K-6 school. Grades 7-9 have been temporarily discontinued at the school for the last two years because of low enrolments in those grades. In the 2013-2015 school year, Grades 8 and 9 were temporarily discontinued at Wapella, and in the last two years Grades 7, 8, and 9 were discontinued, although Wapella continues to be classified as a K-9 school.

Wapella has an enrolment of 49 students currently, above the threshold of 37 to consider closure of a K-6 school, but below the threshold of 58 for a K-9 school.

The board had served notice earlier in the school year that it was considering either closing the school or discontinuing grades.

At the board of education meeting in Weyburn Tuesday, the board decided to continue considering permanently discontinuing grades 7-9 at the end of this school year, while dropping any consideration of closing the school.

The board voted 9-1 in favor of considering the grade discontinuation. The vote does not mean that grades 7-9 will be permanently discontinued, just that the board will consider the discontinuation. The board will meet with the community March 16 at Wapella School, and must make a final decision by the end of April. The change will take place at the end of the school year. Because Grades 7-9 are temporarily discontinued at Wapella, the change would make the temporary discontinuation of those grades permanent.

The board of education has set a community meeting in Wapella for March 16 at 7 p.m. at Wapella School.

Elwood White is the only member of the board of education to vote against the grade discontinuance at Wapella.

He represents the area including Pangman, where the local school is also under review. In that case, the board voted to consider grade discontinuance or closing the school in Pangman.

Wapella Mayor Sandy Hintz was at the Board of Education meeting for the decision.

“I wasn’t surprised that they went the way they did,” he said. “I’m definitely happy they decided not to try to close the whole school.”

Hintz says the next step for the community of Wapella will be determining what the parents want.

“The first thing we have to do is talk to the parents in the community again. Ultimately it’s up to them. It’s up to the parents. Ideally, I would like to see those grades back in Wapella, but it’s not up to me, it’s up to the parents.

“There are a few parents that are fine to have their kids go to Moosomin for those grades, but I think more of a majority want those grades offered in Wapella.

“Unfortunately you can’t make a decision that will make everyone happy.

“We have to go back to the parents in the community and see what they think. Maybe people will say let’s fight for K-8 and give up on grade 9—we don’t know until the parents decide.

“I personally think being a K-6 school will affect the community. But we plan to have a community meeting, to see what everyone thinks before we go back to the board.”

Meanwhile the board voted to continue to review grade discontinuance or complete closure of Pangman School. Four board members, including the chair, voted against considering grade discontinuance or closure in Pangman. The vote was 6-4 to continue considering closure or grade discontinuance.

Elwood White spoke out against the motion. “I can’t support the motion to continue reviewing the entire school. Pangman is a community school. Our own data shows the students are doing above division average and our operational costs per student are in line with other schools. There’s something beautiful about a community school that involves kids and seniors interacting and learning—a formal and informal education at the same time.”