Farewell to Hussar School
After 67 years, Hussar School will be closing its doors forever, and staff, students, and the community itself now prepare for the move to the new Wheatland Crossing School next September.
An official farewell gathering is planned for June 18 for the community and past staff to part with the school that has been the central hub of activity for the small farming community for years.
The occasion is bittersweet for Hussar School staff, who say the change to Wheatland Crossing, with its newer facilities and a larger population composed of students from Standard, Rockyford, and Gleichen, will offer students more than they could be provided in Hussar while also robbing certain qualities its people have come to know.
“There’s pros and cons,” said secretary Donna Collett, who has worked at the school for the last 19 years and attended Hussar School herself until Grade 11. “Our kids will get a lot more options and be exposed to more things in a bigger school. With our class sizes you don’t have much choice who your friends are, but at the same time it’s like a family.”
“The school is the hub of Hussar. It’s a centralized space in the community.”
Judy Sproule, who taught Kindergarten there from 1976 until her retirement in 2010, said the school is a focus of a lot of attention in the community for its activities and the vested interest of parents, as well as housing the Hussar library and a private daycare.
“It is emotional for everyone… It’s been a long process over the years and it’s nice to see it close to completion,” said Sproule.
Collett said the fight to keep enrolment numbers up has been a struggle since she was a sophomore in high school. She herself was moved to a different school for her senior year in 1973 because numbers were too low.
“I’ve known this fighting to keep the school alive and floating forever. There’s no two ways about it, of course we want to keep the school in our community. But the numbers just don’t work,” she said, adding that since starting in 1997 the numbers have fluctuated from 90 to 120 and down again.
“It’s all about the bottomline, that’s all there is to it.”
“Education is about funding through numbers,” said Sproule. “If you have more people you have more opportunity for more staff and more programming.”
Due to declining enrolment, Hussar School lost its high school classes in 2009, and then junior high in 2011.
Sproule said it’s a situation faced by rural communities in all prairie provinces, where farms have continued to grow larger and equipment and mechanization has decreased the demand for workers to live in the country.
But there is a sense that Wheatland Crossing may connect the communities of Standard, Rockyford, and Gleichen.
“We’ve been doing that for a long time, working together to field hockey teams or 4-H. We do have a history of working together and it’s always been positive. So in some respects this is kind of the next step,” said Sproule.
“We’ve got some good people at the top and I’m sure things will work out,” said Collett.
Hussar School opened at its current location in 1949, after existing at several different locations as one room schools. The school was expanded in 1958 with three classrooms, a typing room, science room, and gymnasium. It was modernized to its current state in 1988.
The Farewell to Hussar School event is scheduled for Saturday, June 18 from 12 pm to 2 pm and will feature a lunch, tours of the school, and a short program at 1 pm. The event coincides with the Hussar Summer Daze rodeo that same weekend. Organizers are currently inviting nearly 100 former staff to attend the event.