Iceland island shuts school with one pupil

Buildings on Grimsey Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Grimsey is Iceland's northernmost settlement and has 61 residents

The small Icelandic island of Grimsey is temporarily closing its school, as it had only one pupil left.

The island's school had 14 students in 2001, but the number dropped to three for the past school year. One family's decision to leave the island has meant that it only has one student left, Swedish blog on Iceland Islandsbloggen reports.

The last pupil was due to start ninth grade next term, which the school doesn't cater for. Therefore, the school is temporarily closing its doors.

"The school was built in 1966. It's used for almost all indoor activities on the island. It acts as community hall, school, kindergarten, doctor's office, and library," principal Karen Nótt Halldórsdóttir explained to the Reykjavik Grapevine. "We have a zumba class here. And sometimes people hire the place, like a fishing group does each year."

She is positive despite the school closure. "Hopefully this will not last forever", she told local newspaper Vikudagur.

"The premises and all the study materials are there to re-start the teaching. We Grimsey residents hope for the best and that schooling will soon start again."

'Not rattled'

Grimsey relies mostly on fishing. But over the last few years, fishing companies on the island have lost their quotas, and business has gone down.

The island, sitting smack bang on the Arctic circle, is also a popular tourist destination, though tourists come mostly in the summer. Living here permanently can be an isolated experience - post is delivered twice a week, for example.

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Residents have to put up with regular earthquakes, since the island sits right on top the North Atlantic Ridge with the European and North American tectonic plates constantly drifting apart.

"We are used to this stuff, and we refuse to be rattled," local resident Guðbjörg Henningsdóttir explained.

She was adamant that life goes on despite the quakes, and said that when a tremor struck during her child's birthday party, the children were not scared as they are used to it.

The Icelandic government subsidises air transport to Grimsey and to five other isolated destinations around the country, but that doesn't guarantee contact with the mainland.

Image copyright Visit Grimsey/Facebook
Image caption Grimsey sits right on the Arctic Circle and is a popular tourist destination

In 2016, days before Christmas, the villagers braced themselves for a festive holiday without fresh food. The ferry and planes couldn't reach the island, leaving the only shop there with dwindling supplies.

"We are without milk, cream and bread. Of course, a lot is missing, but no-one's going hungry. People are used to this and ensure they have stock piles," shop owner Harpa Þórey Sigurðardóttir told the Icelandic Public Broadcasting Service.

The island's isolated location also threatened to halt the entire country's general election in 2016. Bad weather meant that the ferry transporting the ballot papers couldn't dock.

Instead, a boat dropped the cargo into the Arctic Sea which was then collected by a local fishing boat.

The polls that day were supposed to stay open until 1730, Islandsbloggen reports. But by 1013, everyone who wanted to vote had already done so, which meant that the Grimsey polling station could close early.

The ballot boxes were ready for collection by plane at lunchtime, before the bad weather closed in again.

Reporting by Matilda Welin and Krassi Twigg

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