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Sask. town fears school closure could mean bleak future for community

The North East School Division (NESD) is reviewing the Arborfield school and considering whether to keep it open or close it. ( The North East School Division (NESD) is reviewing the Arborfield school and considering whether to keep it open or close it. (

Residents in a Saskatchewan town fear the closure of Grades 7 to 12 at the local school may be a setback the community won't be able to recover from.

The town of Arborfield, located about 265 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, filed for a court injunction in August, after parents learned in February the North East School Division was planning on closing classrooms in its school.

In affidavits to King’s Bench Judge John Morrall, residents of Arborfield, Sask. shared concerns about how the North East School Division’s cuts would affect their livelihoods.

Some were concerned it would be harder to attract people to work and live in the town if it “does not have a school.”

Water treatment plant operator Ryan Thompson was worried a loss of population in the town could threaten his job.

An employee at the Arborfield Co-op said the loss of older students buying food at lunch would also have an impact on their business.

The division’s Director of Education Stacey Lair cited the condition of the school and low enrollment projections as part of the reason for the move.

In her affidavit, Lair said Arborfield School had the second-highest number of maintenance requests in the division, and only 26 students projected to attend Grades 7 to 12 in 2023 – 24, with only one student in the graduating class.

“With these low numbers, it would not be feasible to provide some important educational, social and extracurricular opportunities to students,” Morrall writes in his summary of Lair’s statement.

“Arborfield School has only been able to offer 13 of the 24 high school courses needed to graduate, with students having to take many high school courses online,” Morrall said.

Lair told the court students would be in triple-graded classrooms, which would have lead to a lower quality of instruction compared to the single-grade classrooms in Carrot River.

The division also argued the application for an injunction was too late in the game. They said it would have a disruptive effect on students and families, since transition meetings had already been held and teachers would have to be reassigned.

In a lengthy decision published online, Morrall lamented the decision he was asked to make.

“Unfortunately, for various reasons, this has not been the first such application faced by the court over many long years to stop a school in rural Saskatchewan from closing or offering fewer grades, and this will not be the last,” he said.

Arborfield Mayor Chet Edwards told CTV News the community is thankful they held onto the elementary classes. He says they’re still fighting to keep the school alive.

“This isn't what we want. We want our school here. And I mean, it's been a battle for us all along. But we're not done. We'll keep battling along,” he said in a phone interview on Friday.

Edwards said he feels the division had made up its mind about Arborfield School and communication has broken down.

“They didn’t have enough numbers in Carrot River to sustain the size of school that they were building there so they were going to squash Arborfield School to get their numbers,” said Edwards.

He said it seems like Arborfield is subject to different rules than other schools in the region.

“We're really getting squeezed hard by the board. The board has got a very negative attitude towards the community and school … We've been trying to work with the board the best we can but we're to a point where they will not meet and discuss anything with us,” he said.

The North East School Division told CTV News on Monday it could not comment on the situation with the community of Arborfield School because there were still matters before the courts. Top Stories

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