A letter from Jack Stevens, site retired educator and founder of the Community School movement in B.C.
Here we go again! Another year, another neighborhood school on the chopping block. This time, cost Puntledge Park Elementary. Next year, likely a school in your neighborhood.
Small schools throughout the province are threatened with closure, because Public Education in this province is underfunded.
We have also bought into the myth that small is bad. In my thirty three years in education in B.C., I had, in addition to teaching at all levels, the privilege of being a principal of several small schools in North Vancouver. They were real jewels, the glue which defined their neighborhoods for all ages. Parents, students and teachers loved working and learning in them because they were an extension of family.
Two of my early years in teaching, were at Lake Trail and I walked to school through Puntledge Park and through the trails to Lake Trail. They were both thriving schools in their day.
Now the Comox Valley is facing a number of challenges – an aging population coupled with a declining enrollment in our schools.
Retirees, mostly from other provinces, are going to have to reinvest in our public schools. They bring life experience, financial expertise and leadership skills to their new homes in the Comox Valley. Other levels of local government are going to have to become partners in education too.
All the recent Social Planning reports indicate that the Comox Valley will continue to move toward service industry jobs. These will be the new jobs for our young people – in small business, heath, education, recreation, financial services etc.
But for our young people to stay and invest in our community, we are going to have to invest in them and in their children’s education. Comprehensive, neighbourhood community schools must be the goal. Each community school should act as a hub for the delivery of services, including quality Day Care, recreation, skills training etc.
Surely we cannot be serious about revitalizing the Courtenay core at the same time as contemplating school closures.
The simple truth is that we community members collectively own the schools and we are going to have to work together to develop a far reaching plan for preserving even the smallest one, in all of our interests.
In an article I submitted last year on the Plight of Neighbourhood Schools, I suggested that people look no further then Union Bay, to see the effect of closing their only school. Young parents, moving – not anymore!
Starting now, we need to develop a new vision for this School District. It must be owned by the community and implemented by their elected trustees. With upcoming changes to senior staff position the community must insist on a new spirit of leadership and accountability which restores ownership of their schools to the citizens of the Comox Valley.
To that end, all stakeholders must come together, early in the New Year to begin the process. Let’s commit to strengthening a sense of community, neighbourhood by neighbourhood with our schools leading the way.
Also see Jack’s BUDGET letter of Feb. 5th, posted HERE.