As a final gesture before the school closes in July, the principal of Shenmu Elementary School in Nantou County’s Sinyi Township (信義) arranged a hiking trip with the school’s five students, teachers and parents late last month.
With the population of the nearby villages continuing to decrease, the school is losing its source of students.
Two students are graduating this year, leaving the school with only three, school principal Huang Ying-chin (黃應欽) said.
After negotiating with the area’s residents, it was decided that the school would close in July.
The school’s faculty and the three remaining students will go to other schools in the area to continue their services and education, Huang said.
Hoping to give the students one last memory of their school, Huang and the faculty invited the students and their parents to attend what they called a “historically significant graduation trip” by climbing Yushan (玉山), the nation’s highest peak.
The plan was enthusiastically received by the parents, and the group — totaling 22 people — departed in the early morning of Wednesday last week for the trip.
Although the trip was a success, the timing was perhaps not so fortunate: On Wednesday last week, there was a magnitude 6.1 earthquake, with its epicenter in Nantou County. The difficulty was further compounded by bad weather.
The hikers received calls from friends and relatives worried about their well-being and concern that the quake might put them at risk, said Chien Tsung-hsi (簡宗熙), the school’s director of education and student affairs.
The hikers were not harmed by the earthquake, he said.
Chiu Chia-fang (邱家芳), one of the parents, said they were concerned when it started to snow up in the mountains because they were hoping to make it to the summit.
A-fu (阿福), the group’s Aboriginal guide, led the hikers in a prayer that the weather would clear up the following day when the group reached their lodging in the mountains.
The following morning, the hikers were blessed with fine weather, which lifted their spirits.
Cheng You-ching (鄭宥靜), a first-grader at the school, said he underwent physical training to prepare for the climb.
Sixth-grader Chen Meng-chen (陳孟臻) was forced to rest at one of the medical stations because of altitude sickness. Chen’s classmate Yang Ya-wen (楊雅文) said the trip was a graduation trip for the whole school, and although Chen could not make it to the top of the mountain, she wanted to make sure that she could, not only for herself, but also for Chen.
The hikers reached the summit on Thursday morning, where they took a group photograph.
“The mountain-climbing trip signified a glorious end to the history of Shen Mu Elementary School,” Huang said.