Even Jean-Luc and Will (Star Trek Guys) are having difficulty trying to figure out what in the world the so called ‘brain trust’ is thinking about over in the provincial education department these days. We trust them to do right by us in terms of making decisions that are in our best interests. Unfortunately, I can’t trust in that anymore. There can be little doubt that much of the decision making coming out of Queen’s Park these days has to do with generating money to help replenish the gross amount of money that this outfit has squandered during their term in office. An election can’t be far off.
However, re-election should not come at the expense of our kid’s education. I believe there are three things that should remain universal and untouchable: education, health-care (including the cost of prescription drugs) and freedom. We are told to do more with less but the time of doing more with less is coming to an end. The fat is gone and service seems to be next. Perhaps the MPP’s would set the example of doing more with less by taking a 20% pay cut and a hefty reduction from a bloated retirement package. Oh, not possible they say–I ask why not?
There seems to be an old pattern at play and that is to act without considering the whole picture before deciding a particular issue. In this case, it is continuing to close schools at quite a clip to save money. I don’t doubt there are some school buildings that need to be closed because they are too costly to try to save. However, there are many that are being closed because of inefficient use. Are enrollments down? Yes, they are. Have they considered ways to increase enrollments? Have they thought about how to re-engage with students who have dropped out of school? Have they considered converting some schools into multi-use facilities or is it easier to just shut them down and move on?
Have these decision-makers considered the overall importance and symbolism of having a school in a small rural community? Have they considered that without a school the likelihood of EVER generating any new interest or growth in a rural town is just about impossible? Having a local school is about demonstrating leadership, social stability and providing hope and opportunity for all even if the group is small. Kids depend on their school for a central sense of identity and connectedness. Boards don’t seem to care much about that. How many parents want to have their kids bused an hour or two one way to attend a school with which they have no connection or history? How many opportunities would the parents have to be any part of their child’s education and what kind of relationship would they have with the teachers entrusted with educating their kids? What they, the bureaucrats, don’t seem to understand is that education is far more than books and learning. It’s about developing community spirit, creativity, and collaboration. These are the very skills lacking in many of the programs in larger centers. If a government can’t find a way to do that then they should move out and move on.
Some of the smaller schools could be refurbished especially with the new technology that is available. Utilizing solar energy and heat pumps instead of burning expensive fuel oil. Great ecological example for the next generation. Other countries are building homes and buildings out of cardboard. They are reputed to be as efficient and durable as bricks and mortar but a great deal less costly. Consider the multi-use option that many small communities have adopted.
Multi-use possibilities: Size school buildings to accommodate the number of students who will attend.
- Part school and part community center with a public gym.
- Create regular school classrooms and special education classrooms for challenged learners in the same building
- Treatment facilities and out patient clinics (re-habs)
- Medical clinics
- Day care/child care facilities
- Social service centers
- Rental space for small private sector businesses like dental offices or optometrist offices
We are inviting more immigrants with young families to come to Canada. These kids will need to go to school. What a wonderful opportunity to practice our goals of providing a diverse setting for all who come to join us. There are a growing number of professionals who like the idea of practicing in a rural or small town to get away from the ‘big city experience.’ They will want to know there are good schools where they are considering working.
Closing schools, especially at the current rate, is not only short-sighted but borders on negligence. Strong word. I am aware of what it means. Educators know that the communities without schools are likely to die and yet they continue to plan on closing many schools that don’t need to be closed at least before trying other means of sharing the costs of keeping them open. That is negligence to me. Perhaps it’s time to create a new funding strategy instead of using the old one that doesn’t represent the taxpayers very well. It is the obligation of our governments big and small to assume the responsibility to provide adequate education not limit its availability.
Parents need to fight for what they deserve or they are likely to get what they deserve. Don’t leave it to the government to save the day. Education is too important to leave it to the educators.
Anyways, that’s how I see it. Thanks for stopping by. All the best, Jim
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