School District 59 will close Rolla’s only school after this classes let out for the summer.
On Wednesday, School board trustees voted unanimously to shutter Rolla Discovery School as of July 1, saying declining enrollment made the rural school fiscally unsustainable.
“It’s always a difficult decision to close a community school,” trustee Richard Powell said. “But I believe the process we go through is very effective, and it’s very open to communication with the community that the school’s in.”
The school came under review last year after enrollment dropped below 40 students. There are 23 K-7 students attending Rolla Discovery this year.
The closure will save an annual $350,000 in maintenance, utilities, and administration costs, according to a school district report. The building also needed $1.7 million in renovations.
Trustees had been open to allowing Rolla Discovery to continue with a single teacher/principal, but trustee Wayne Ezeard said the idea did not catch on with parents.
“They just weren’t in favour of one teacher doing everything,” he said. “Nobody really felt comfortable with that.”
Students will now be enrolled in Ecole Frank Ross in Dawson Creek, where the district will provide bussing. At a public meeting in November, Superintendent Leslie Lambie told parents she would allow students to enrol in any school in the district.
Parents had been scheduled to speak at the January school board meeting, but withdrew their presentation.
While some hoped the school could be saved through the province’s Rural Education Enhancement Fund, district officials said the school was too small to qualify.
Powell said the closure will be difficult for Rolla, which is now without a school for the first time since the early 20th century.
But he added the people he had spoken with in the community were not surprised by the move to close the school.
“They felt it was a general trend within the community, of the downsizing of families living out there,” he said. “They seemed kind of resigned to the fact that continuing to operate the school would be difficult.”
The last rural school to close in the district was Tomslake’s Tate Creek Elementary in 2014.