School board members in the Rolling River School Division are reviewing the K-8 programming offered at the two elementary schools within the Erickson catchment area due to low enrolment levels.
"Our review committee is going to set out to answer one simple question," said Reg Klassen, superintendent of the Rolling River School Division. "Whether or not there’s another way of providing this education to the students in these communities where we perhaps don’t have to divide our resources between two K-8 programs."
Due to small class sizes and levelled-off enrolments for the past two years, Klassen said it’s time to look into whether running two separate K-8 programs is the best use of their resources.
"We have very small classes and our programming is very torn apart, so we want to review that to see if we can do that in a different way than what we currently do," he said. "Through this conversation we will have possibilities that will emerge and we will decide what is right for these communities and these schools."
The three schools included in the Erickson catchment area include Erickson Elementary School, Onanole Elementary School and Erickson Collegiate. All three schools serve the Rolling River First Nation, Sandy Lake, Erickson and Onanole communities.
During an open house meeting on Tuesday, parents of students were given the opportunity to meet Klassen and the rest of the school board members while discussing the current school year. But word of the impending school review in their communities has already spread, causing parents to wonder about the future of their child’s education and the award-winning Onanole Elementary School.
"Regardless of what it might be for, people are always concerned about change and what that might mean for them in their community or their school and more specifically for their children," Klassen said. "So we just have to be sensitive to that."
The school review process was discussed at their regular school board meeting on Sept. 5. The meeting minutes read, "the board will review the schools in the Erickson catchment with a goal to assess the feasibility of realigning the programing within the three schools in the catchment area to operate an early years, middle years and high school program in each catchment area schools."
Currently, there are 280 students enrolled in all three of the Erickson catchment area schools, which led some board members to question whether they should be running two K-8 programs.
"We are looking into whether our students could be served a better way," Klassen said.
Although Klassen was unable to comment on any concrete future plans for any of the schools or programs within the catchment area, there is one thing he wanted to make clear to those concerned about the future of Onanole Elementary School.
"There is no intention of closing any school because there’s a moratorium on school closures so we’re not going to close the school," he said.
The review process will involve parent advisory committees from all three schools in the area and will include a public forum, but no official meeting dates have been set.
"The conversation with communities will be planned and scheduled and we need to form a committee which will involve lots of community members and we’re going to go very slow," Klassen explained.
Klassen said division officials hope to come up with some meeting dates before students leave school for spring break.
"We don’t have any firm dates planned, but we’re hoping to set some up over the course of two to four weeks."