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Iceland’s Smallest School to Close?

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Iceland’s Smallest School to Close?

Árneshreppur, the West Fjords, Iceland

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

It looks increasingly likely that families of four of the five children in Árneshreppur municipality may move away this summer, meaning that their school would most likely close down.

Finnbogastaðaskóli has been the local school for the children of Árneshreppur in the West Fjords region for nearly 90 years and has stayed open all that time, despite the municipal population having fallen to just 55 residents. Currently there are just five children enrolled at the school in Iceland’s least populated, and remotest, region.

Local councilor Eva Sigurbjörnsdóttir told RÚV that all options are being looked at to save the school, but that: “One plot of land is already advertised for sale and there is another one which is thinking about selling, but not decided. On both of these farms live two children, which is nearly half the total number at the school. And if the nightmare becomes reality, nearly all the children will move out of the area this autumn.”

If no families with children move to the area, there will be only one child left in the school. “I think that is not okay, to have only one child in the school. For the child. He/she could probably get the best education and services in the world, but there would be huge gaps, socially speaking. But it is not 100 percent yet, so we are still searching for ways to save the day and keep the school open,” Eva says.

Eva believes Árneshreppur’s biggest problem lies in its transport problems. The municipality is covered by the roads administration’s so-called G-Rule, which means the only road in and out is not snow plowed from May 1 to around March 20 every year. While this is not a problem in the summer, it means the winter snow blocks the road often completely. There are one or two flights a week, year-round, to and from Reykjavík, however.

Árneshreppur is an undeniably beautiful, clean and peaceful place and more people could be persuaded to live there if some relatively minor changes are made, Eva hopes. Increasing tourist activity and the possible new hydro plant on Hvalá river are among local economic bright spots.

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