Rockyford School bids farewell
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.