Out of 423 primary schools in Friesland, 13 will be closing their doors when the school year ends this month.
Translation of Traci White
Mergers and centralisation of village resources under one roof is becoming more common in small towns across Friesland due to a shrinking population. The Leeuwarder Courant reports that the reason behind most of the primary schools that are set to close doing so is down to having fewer students than the legally mandated minimum: a school has to have at least 23 students.
The schools that are closing due to small class sizes include De Pream (26) in De Knipe, It Swannennest (25) in Molkwerum, De Trijetine (21) in Schettens, Bolster (24) in Eastermar, de Otto Clantskoalle (28) in Boksum and De Gearrin (27) in Folsgare. The students will attend different local primary schools starting in the autumn.
But small student numbers are not the only reason for some schools to shut down. In the town of Tijnje, one public primary school with 80 students – De Pols – will be merging with De Rank, a Christian school with 64 students. The two schools will be coming together as part of a wider initiative in the town to centralise services like education, community events and health care.
Some schools are looking to join forces to come closer to the national average numbers: De Lytse Mienskip (38) in Haskerhoarne, de Peggebult (75) in Donkerbroek, It Twaspan (115) in Haulerwijk, De Schalmei ((56) in Tsumearrum and De Beuk (48) in Sint Nicolaasga will all be merging over the summer.
The Leeuwarder Courant reports that back in 2010, Friesland had 475 primary schools with places for 62,184 students. Nearly half of the primary schools in the province have fewer than 100 students – the national average is 225. If current demographic trends continue unchanged, the number of students is expected to be down to 51,700 by 2024.
Groningen and Drenthe
Stagnating birth rates, an ageing population and young people moving elsewhere for work are also playing a role in the fate of primary schools in the more rural areas of the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe. The number of primary schools in both provinces have been trending downward in recent years: In Drenthe, there were 11 percent fewer primary schools open in the province in 2017 than in 2012.
RTV Noord reported in early July that three small primary schools in Pieterburen. Garnwerd and Adorp were only saved from closing due to parental intervention and increased involvement with the schools themselves. Two primary schools in Midden-Groningen will be merging by 2021 due to low enrolment numbers.
Photo source: Kees-Jan Bakker Fotografie/Flickr