A southern Saskatchewan K-8 school will get a few years’ protection from closure to allow time for an organic grain company to help spur further local development.
Chaplin School, in the community of Chaplin about 85 km west of Moose Jaw, was designated Thursday by the province as a “School of Opportunity.”
The designation was created last year to ensure the potential for future economic growth in a community or area is considered before a school is closed or downsized.
An application for “School of Opportunity” status is considered only after a board of education, in this case the Moose Jaw-based Prairie South School Division, makes a final motion to shut down a school.
The school board moved in May 2007 to close the school effective this July, after which a local committee applied this spring for “School of Opportunity” status.
“Chaplin has the potential for economic growth based on its strategic positioning and the plans of its current industries,” Education Minister Ken Krawetz said in a provincial release Thursday.
Specifically, the province cited the continued growth in the organic food industry, to support a “key anchor enterprise,” organic grain handling firm Chaplin Grain.
The company, which went into the organic grain business in 2005, expanded to an additional elevator at Gull Lake, about 145 km west of Chaplin, in 2007.
The province also cited the “prospects for expansion” at the local sodium sulphate plant, Saskatchewan Minerals, which recently began developing sodium bicarbonate products for use in “clean coal” scrubbers.
Chaplin School’s designation gives the community an opportunity to meet the guidelines as described in the province’s School Review Handbook and Education Regulations. According to those guidelines, a minimum enrolment of 51 students must be realized in three years for a K-8 school to remain open.
The designation does not affect plans to transfer Grade 9-12 students in Chaplin School’s catchment area to schools at Gravelbourg, Central Butte and Mortlach starting this fall, the school division said in a separate release.
The province noted that another application for “School of Opportunity” status from the community of Morse, about 30 km west of Chaplin, was not approved after Krawetz reviewed consultants’ and architects’ reports.
“Allowing students to continue beyond the end of this school year may present a concern for their health and safety,” he said.