Monday, February 19, 2007

A strange new twist in the school closure saga

Late last week, two of our District 43 School Trustees, Keith Watkins and John Keryluk, called for a halt to the school closure process. Here's the news story.

In the meantime, meetings at local schools are now over, and we have a big meeting hosted by the school trustees that has got so big they've expanded it to two nights. Originally scheduled for Tuesday Feb 20, it will now run on both the 20th and the 21st. Eighty-two speakers were scheduled at deadline time. After these meetings, the trustees will deliberate. Their decision on the fate of 8 elementary schools will be announced on February 27.

I checked in last night with Reece Harding, the College Park parent who is heading up the fight to keep our little school open. Reece told me that the official reps for the 8 school Parent Advisory Councils are scheduled first on Tuesday, followed by the remaining speakers over the course of the two nights. Speakers will not be clustered by neighbourhood or school. I think our PAC is #5. Reece is #32, and there will be other speakers from our community throughout. Reece recommended that we attend on Tuesday, but either night should be good for supporting our speakers. And every presenter should be compelling.

Other speakers of note include two Port Moody City Councillors. Our mayor reports that district staff and trustees have refused to meet with him or other reps from our city. The city, understandably, wants to keep all of its schools (3 Port Moody Schools are on the block). Our councillors seem to be of the opinion that the district's enrolment projections are pessimistic.

As for our little school, if it closes, the kids will be assigned to Seaview Elementary School, a few blocks to the south. This much larger school is less than half full, so it will easily accommodate as many of our kids as do end up going there. One hitch: Seaview is scheduled for a major seismic upgrade in 2007-8. Most of the kids there already will be moved out to portable classrooms for a good part of the school year. So if College Park is closed and our kids move over, they'll face the double disruption of changing schools and learning in temporary classrooms within a de-stabilized school community for most of their first year.

From a dollars and cents point of view, the answer is clear cut: close as many schools as we can and move the kids to fill other schools with empty classrooms, thus saving money on heat, light, maintenance, equipment and administration. From a community point of view, and a social perspective, it's not as easy. A neighbourhood school is something special in the life of a community. Children and families rely on it as a base for learning, living and growing, and not just within the curriculum or school programs. While your kids are there, the school is a centre of family and community life. It will be hard to see some of these bases eliminated, and difficult for those affected to re-establish roots in newly-shaped community groupings.

The next ten days will be very stressful for everyone. I hope that there will be some happy resolution. It's certain that some schools will be closed. I don't wish it for our school, but neither do I wish it for any others.

I have a piece of art given to me by one of our students 4 years ago when we won the fight to keep College Park open. On the back it says "Thank you for saving our school." I'm going to take it to the meeting Tuesday and give it to Reece. No matter what the outcome, this effort has shown the strength of the bonds in our small community. That is something precious indeed.

question: how do you solve a problem like school funding?

mompoet - sad about change

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With StatCan's recent release of population increases it seems to suggest that SD43 is being even more short-sighted.

StatCan Throws Egg and Flour at School District 43