The North East School Division (NESD) board has passed a motion initiating a school viability review process for the potential closure or grade discontinuance at Gronlid Central School.
According to the division, the K to 8 Gronlid Central School has been sustained with reduced staffing. Students have been allowed to attend outside of the attendance area with transportation for academic and family circumstances.
Under board policy, a school’s viability may be reviewed if the projected enrollment for a kindergarten to Grade 8 school is less than 51 pupils.
The NESD projections for enrollment by Sept. 15, 2021 placed Gronlid Central School with 29 students. Actual numbers were lower.
By Sept. 15, the school only had 18 students enrolled. Among those were two Grade 1 students, five Grade 2 students, three Grade 3 students, four Grade 4 students, one Grade 5 student, two Grade 6 students and one Grade 7 student. There were no Grade 8 student enrollments.
Marla Walton, NESD’s board chair, said the decision to review the location is due to the student population.
“It has declining enrollment numbers,” Walton said.
“As the school division and the board, we’re open to listening. We’re open to having very open and frank conversations.”
If chosen for closure, closure would not be enacted until after the current school year.
Amy Hedin, chair of the Gronlid School Community Council (SCC) said that they will provide consent for the closure, which they have the ability to do at any time.
The SCC is made up of elected and appointed volunteer parents and community members.
“Our SCC believes it is our responsibility to do what is in the best interest of our children, families and staff,” Hedin said. “We understand the impact school closure has and the process it takes to transition our children into an alternative school. “
Since Gronlid School meets all criteria outlined for going under review, Hedin said the SCC has concluded that closure is inevitable.
“This was a very difficult decision for the Gronlid School Community Council. We are a group of parents, teachers, staff and community members that have dedicated countless volunteer hours to make Gronlid School the most unique, versatile and adaptive school within the division.”
In the meantime, Hedin said the SCC will be focusing their time celebrating the rural school, what it has had to offer and the people that have been a part of its journey.
By Nov. 1 the board of education plans to formally establish a school review committee.
Once established, the NESD will provide both the review committee and the Gronlid School Community Council (SCC) with information about enrolment since 2006, five-year projected enrolments, the source of the data, current number of teaching and non-teaching staff, projected number of teaching staff, the physical condition of the school building, and other relevant data.
Between November and January, the school review committee will be consulting with the community as a whole and advising the board of the results of their consultations.
During the month of February the board will make information about receiving schools and bus routes available to parents and school community council if impacted by the decision.
The transition plan is expected to be complete and made open to the public in June.
“It’s a difficult time for communities when they face the potential of their school closing,” Walton said. “It’s also a very difficult time for the board. We take those decisions very seriously, we take all factors into consideration. We’re open to listening to the public, to the parents, all of the stakeholders. This is not a decision we take lightly at all.”
The NESD previously cut back grades for Gronlid Central. In the 2017-18 school year, the school went from a K to 12 school to a K to 8 School.
While not being reviewed at this time, opening enrollments indicate that both Bjorkdale and Star City schools have less than the threshold for their respective grade numbers.
Jessica R. Durling, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Humboldt Journal