Aspen View to close Rochester School

Leader staff

Smith School is still safe, but a smaller school in the same division will close after the next school year.

“Rochester School will close at the end of the 2024-25 school year, due to low enrolment,” says a news release from Aspen View School Division.

Aspen View Public Schools has no intention of closing Smith School, says a Jan. 31 Leader article. This year, Smith School has just over 50 students. The cutoff for funding is 35.

Keeping Rochester open in 2025-26 would mean a net loss of $400,000 per year, says the news release. It is running at a loss of about $140,000.

Rochester School has been close to the chopping block for a while.

The decision to close the school was made at the January 25, 2024 Aspen View board of trustees regular meeting. This was after consultation with the Rochester community.

The community wants a decision, said Aspen View Chair Candy Nikipelo in the news release. The years of uncertainty are wearing thin.

Councillor Dennis MacNeil described it as a lose/lose situation, adds the news release. A school closure is hard on a community, but subsidizing the school is hard on the other schools.

Smith Trustee Brenda Fulmore commented that this decision is very painful for all of the trustees, adds the news release.

The motion passed by the Board of Trustees was that Aspen View Public Schools “continue to operate Rochester School to the end of the 2024-25 school year due to the critical low enrolment.”

On a lighter note, Edwin Parr Composite School Grade 11 student Maya Zimmer asked the board to make sure that each student has the opportunity to go on a fieldtrip each year.

In recent years, many junior and senior high students haven’t had the opportunity, she said, because of various challenges including transportation and funding. She also suggested that students be involved in planning the fieldtrips.

Maya presented as part of a new student voice initiative, which has a local student (the board meeting was at Edwin Parr in Athabasca) present to the board on something they care about.

In other board news, at the meeting, the board of trustees voted unanimously to ratify a Memorandum of Agreement with the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA).

This was after a discussion in a closed session, says the news release.

The Members of ATA Aspen View Local No. 7 ratified the agreement on January 17, 2024.

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