Rock­y­ford School bids farewell

The Drumheller Mail - - NEWS - Kyle Smylie

The peo­ple of Rock­y­ford will be say­ing good­bye to one of the cor­ner­stones of their com­mu­nity this week as Rock­y­ford School will be clos­ing its doors for­ever at the end of the school year.

Join­ing Stan­dard, Hus­sar, and Gle­ichen, cur­rent, past, and fu­ture stu­dents of the Rock­y­ford area will be mov­ing to the new Wheat­land Cross­ing School in Septem­ber, and like those other com­mu­ni­ties, the oc­ca­sion is con­flict­ing for staff and stu­dents. “It’s ob­vi­ously bit­ter­sweet,” says Rock­y­ford lead teacher Kathy Ger­rit­sen, who has been with the school for the last 18 years. “Ev­ery­one sup­ports the school in the com­mu­nity, but it has been in­evitable. The num­bers are de­clin­ing and it has to be this way. But we are look­ing for­ward to the new fa­cil­ity and ev­ery­thing that comes along with that.”

Golden Hills School Divi­sion made the de­ci­sion to cen­tral­ize stu­dents in its ju­ris­dic­tion to a K-12 school lo­cated at the in­ter­sec­tion of High­ways 840 and 561, and will open Septem­ber 2016.

The move was made due to de­creas­ing en­rol­ment num­bers, and means that Rock­y­ford will lose a hub of ac­tiv­ity that has been in place in their com­mu­nity since 1955. The school cur­rently only has 35 stu­dents en­rolled from Kin­der­garten to Grade 6, with Grades 1-3 and Grades 4-6 in split-class­rooms to­gether.

A num­ber of the class­rooms have been empty for years.

“En­rol­ment started to de­crease with the in­crease in farm land,” says Roger Moggey, Rock­y­ford’s for­mer prin­ci­pal from 1977 un­til his re­tire­ment in 1998. Moggey said when he be­gan at Rock­y­ford en­rol­ment num­bers were around 165 stu­dents.

“What kept me there for 22 years was the stu­dents and the com­mu­nity. It’s a dis­ap­point­ment, ob­vi­ously,” Moggey says, who re­mem­bers his stu­dents be­ing well be­haved be­cause of the small size of the com­mu­nity.

“I’m sure some­thing will be lost. There’s no com­mu­nity at the new lo­ca­tion. It’s stark, just out there in farm­land… There was some­thing spe­cial about hav­ing stu­dents walk­ing to down­town Rock­y­ford on their lunches and hav­ing stores they could go off to. It’s not go­ing to be the same by any means.”

Moggey sees a num­ber of is­sues with the move to the big­ger school at an iso­lated lo­ca­tion on the prairie. The strong vol­un­teerism the par­ents and com­mu­nity of Rock­y­ford that both Moggey and Ger­rit­sen rec­og­nize may

be­come an is­sue, he says. El­e­men­tary and ju­nior high stu

dents will have to rely on their par­ents for trans­porta­tion to ex­tra-cur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties like sports.

“In el­e­men­tary school, it re­ally isn’t a ne­ces­sity for stu­dents to have a larger school, in terms of what can be of­fered. For al­most all the years I was at Rock­y­ford we had split classes and stu­dents seemed to do quite well,” he says. But while the un­cer­tainty around the move to Wheat­land Cross­ing is wor­ry­ing, Ger­rit­sen says her stu­dents are look­ing for­ward to cer­tain as­pects of the change. “The stu­dents are ex­cited, be­cause it’s go­ing to be brand new, they know they are go

ing to make new friends, and know that the pro­gram­ming will be in place for them. But of course it’s bit­ter­sweet, too, be­cause they don’t want to leave their lit­tle school.

On Thurs­day, June 23 at 5 p.m. there will be a farewell celebration at Rock­y­ford School for res­i­dents, staff, and stu­dents of present and past to visit the school one last time.

“They call it a celebration and now, quite of­ten, at my age, we go to the cel­e­bra­tions of per­sons who have passed. This school, I guess, is in that realm now – it is passed and no one is sure what is go­ing to hap­pen to it,” said Moggey.

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