Across British Columbia School Boards are busy finalizing budget plans for next year. As part of that process they are making decisions about the educational services that tehy will offer for the following year. Some of the districts, like New Westminster, for example, are struggling with their attempts to enter the foray of venture capitalism (see earlier comment for details). Others, like Vancouver, are planning not to rehire teaches hired with the so-called ‘one-time-funds‘ money. Yet other districts are simply closing schools to make up for the problems of rising costs and insufficient educational funding.
However, parents rarely take this sitting down. From the early Wells school closure to Forest Grove and now the impending Tsolum School closure parent groups have made a strong case that even in the face of the cold arithmetic of the provincial government, school districts need to place the learning needs of students, families, and their communities first.
As struggles in places for the Forest Grove and Tsolum Schools show schools are more than simply factories for producing students. They very often play a role in the heart of communities; especially for rural communities. Typically people charged with the task of closing schools see opposition as merely the expression of unreasonable people who have put their own personal interests first. I would suggest that while this may play a part of the process, the key issues are typically far more important and fundamental than individual self-interest. As noted above, schools take on a role of community centre and in so doing very often act as important nodal points in human interaction. As a parent waiting outside a school to pick up one’s children we will meet and great other parents building a network of solidarity and connection that, however fleeting, plays an important role in the fabric of a civil society.
Closing schools is part of a process of closing society and reducing social connections to abstract fiscal relations. Rather than considering how to close schools we really should be trying to figure out how to open more, smaller schools. That would really be putting education first.