Englefeld meets with residents about selling school building

ENGLEFELD — Englefeld residents had a chance to give their feedback to the village about the proposal to sell the school property to the Horizon School Division.

This is a continuation of the discussions over the past year, when the school division approached the village.

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The division expressed difficulties moving forward with a planned $431,000 renovation while the property is not under their ownership, as well as missed opportunities for grants that estimates total at about $40,000 per year.

Currently, the Horizon School Division rents the property from the village for $24,000 per year, and as a result, the village pays the upkeep and operation through municipal taxes.

Under the current edition of the proposed agreement, the village would sell the property for $1, but should the school ever close operations the village will gain the ability to buy it back for the same price.

If the agreement goes through, upkeep and operation of the facility will fall under the Horizon School Division.

In addition, the gym, which is used as a community space for meetings, weddings, funerals and weddings will have a joint-use agreement with the village so that the community can continue to access it.

“The main stumbling block is the gym is our hall, so we need to make sure in the future that we’re able to maintain it as a hall,” said Darrell Athmer, the village’s mayor. “Even if the whole school division decides to close it in 10, 20, 30 years, we’ll get it back – because that is our hall and we need it.”

Athmer said this is for planning ahead and currently there is nothing in the foreseeable future to suggest that the school will close.

“Most communities are decreasing in population, contrary to that, ours is increasing in population. So we don’t have to fear the future of it closing, but the future is the future – we can’t tell that.”

The village’s Jan. 19 feedback meetings were split into separate segments due to physical distancing and crowd limits.

At the first meeting of the evening, one parent spoke out in favour of the necessity of the renovations, as currently the school is not sufficiently accessible for disabled students. Other feedback echoed the importance of access to the gymnasium.

Athmer said the final draft of the agreement will be available to any Englefeld resident who requests it.

“Both sides were discussed,” he said, after the consultations. “Both the pros and the cons of selling the school but the majority of the sentiment is: yes, we should go ahead with selling the school to the school division.”

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