Donalda believes numbers game can save school

Hearing a message that Donalda School will remain open next year, students, teachers, parents and other community members

Clearview School Division superintendent John Bailey presents information to a crowd of about 40 people at Donalda School during a “community consultation meeting” last week. The next meeting is scheduled for April 3 at Castor.

Hearing a message that Donalda School will remain open next year, students, teachers, parents and other community members were optimistic during a meeting last week with the Clearview School Division.

“All schools in the Clearview School Division will remain open for 2013-14,” board chairman Ken Checkel told about 40 people at the school meeting last Wednesday night.

It was the second in a series of “community consultation meetings” that Clearview has scheduled to study the future feasibility of rural schools.

“We should look at the horizon and see possibilities in charting a course for the future,” Checkel said.

Before Christmas, Donalda was listed as one of three Clearview schools in jeopardy of being closed, along with the Byemoor and Brownfield schools.

As it celebrates 100 years, Donalda School projects its enrolment to rise to 59 students from kindergarten to Grade 9 next year — from the current 52.

Facing reduced provincial funding and declining enrolment, Clearview plans to keep all schools open for 2013-14, said Checkel, who invited parents and the community to be proactive.

“Your school is only as good as the parents and community are active in supporting it,” said Alison Norman, a parent of three students in playschool, kindergarten and Grade 2.

The meeting crowd applauded her and the next two residents who addressed the board.

“We need to do more to attract more families with children to the community, and we all need to work together to develop and build the Donalda School,” said John Pearson, a former reeve for the County of Stettler.

For the next school year, the school believes it’s on the upswing statistically.

“Financially, we’re in good shape — the teachers know how to be tight with the budget — and we project more students next year,” said John Thorne, the principal for 16 years.

While residents expressed concern about Donalda students going to school in Stettler, division superintendent John Bailey said parents and students have their choice of schools.

He encouraged residents to promote the benefits of their school.

“We want to make each school as attractive to local students in the community. Do everything to promote your school. Celebrate the good things happening in your school and promote in your community and all over the school division.”

Residents were also advised to share ideas with their school parent councils, the principals, school trustees and the administration.

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