Farewell to Hus­sar School

The Drumheller Mail - - FRONT PAGE - Kyle Smylie

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.

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