Pictured are Thomas Cais

Pictured are Thomas Cais

Field Elementary to close at end of June

With just three students this year, and one signed up for next year, the school board has decided to close FES.

School’s out forever.

That lyric from the Alice Cooper anthem has never been truer for residents of Field, who were told last week that their elementary school will be closed for good at the end of June.

Declining enrolment figures were at the root of the closure, as Field Elementary School had just three students this year and was only scheduled to have a single student next year. The Rocky Mountain School District’s next smallest school is Martin Morigeau Elementary in Canal Flats with a student population over 50.

Field Elementary School had previously survived a series of closures in the district and was on a list of schools slated for potential closures as early as 2002.

A continued decline in enrolment finally made the school unsustainable.

The decision to close the school came on Feb. 9 after a series of public consultations between Rocky Mountain School District 6 and the Village of Field.

“As far as Field goes, located in a national park, we are a service centre for tourists. I think the one thing that the school has always brought to the community is that it does make it a community,” said Craig Chapman, chair of the Field Community Council.

District Superintendent Paul Carriere chaired the public consultation meetings and felt that, while the eventual decision to close was difficult for locals, Field villagers understood that it was inevitable and that it was impossible to keep the school open with just one student. He was quick to praise the community for their understanding.

Chapman says the village is grateful the board kept the school running as long as it did.

“The school board has always been very supportive,” he said.

Still, it was a difficult day for locals when the announcement was made, with many leaving comments on the Village of Field’s Facebook page.

“How sad. The school has and always was a big part of the Field community,” wrote one commenter.

“I learned so much living and teaching in such an amazing community. So many fond memories,” said another.

The situation also struck close to home for Chapman, his children having attended Field Elementary in the past.

“Anybody who knew the school…would know it’s an extremely special place. I just can’t even begin to describe what a fantastic experience it was for our kids,” he said, adding that the close relationships students had with their teachers was a definite positive, as was the keen involvement of all of the parents.

As for the building, which has one of the largest footprints of any building in the community, it will remain operational with three tenants continuing to lease offices. Carriere says that the school district doesn’t have any plans to sell the building, and that as long as the school district owns the building, there is a chance the school could re-open if there is the potential for increased enrolment.

In the mean time, the school’s gym could be made available for occasional community events.

“If (community groups) wanted to use the gym, we would talk about what that would look like…it is potentially available under license of occupation agreements,” Carriere said, indicating that similar arrangements have been made at other dormant schools in the district.

A closing celebration will be held on June 29, the last day of school.

“We would invite all past residents, teachers, students, anyone with a connection to the school to just come and have a celebration of the building and what it has meant,” Chapman said.