September has arrived and all over Living Sky School Division students have returned to class, except in Hafford.
Hafford School had been on the list for major renovations for the last few years, ever since it was determined the 1950s wing of the school was not structurally sound and contained things like asbestos and lead in its construction. We were all pleased when funding was finally approved.
When the Ministry of Education evaluated the rest of the school based on square footage and the student population they found we had too much room. Unfortunately, most of it was in the hallways. The 1950s wing housed four classrooms, washrooms and one smaller room used for music lessons. The ministry people came up with a plan to completely gut the remainder of the school, reconfigure the interior walls to fit more but smaller classrooms and then demolish the 1950s wing. The time frame was 10 weeks so our students finished their year on June 18 to accommodate the schedule. Most of the parents I know were skeptical that a renovation of that scale could be completed in that time.
I don't know exactly what the school will look like, as no building plans were ever presented to the public. I understand the classrooms will be small, the library space will be half of what it was, there will be no dedicated computer lab or special education room, no pre-kindergarten and no music classes in voice, piano or guitar during school hours due to the loss of those rooms.
As things stand now the school will be renting four separate community halls with some students starting Sept. 7 and the rest Sept. 13. We have been told they hope to have the school back in operation sometime in October. That means the students have been out of school for three months and the next six weeks will see the entire elementary population, which I'm estimating to be around 100, in one space. I have a hard time believing that will result in quality education.
I can't understand how the ministry could be so short sighted and naive to believe this would be the most economical and educationally acceptable solution. I feel that however well the contractors do their job, the students and community will be worse off.
In 1989 there were 179 students, roughly the same as today, yet they had the existing structure plus two portables. With every reduction in size we see a reduction in the opportunities offered to our students.
In closing, I would like to express my appreciation to the staff who have had and will continue to have a challenging job of educating without the benefit of a proper facility.