Closing schools is never going to be an easy thing to do.
It’s hard on the school population, which by and large tend to be the younger children — there are more elementary schools than middle or high schools — and it is hard on parents, who naturally are not eager to see their children being bussed long distances to go to school.
It’s hard on teachers, who have to say goodbye to a workplace they may have called home for years, whether they are moving to a new school with the students or seeing jobs cut.
Nor is closing a school an easy decision for administrators and trustees; after all, this is a decision that is going to affect the lives of children and adults for years to come.
However, situations change: population centres shift as neighbourhoods age, or, as we are seeing across B.C., sometimes there is just not enough new students entering the system to fill all the schools we have.
The trustees for the Okanagan Skaha School District are to be commended for the open approach they are taking to this decision, with extensive consultation sessions, that have already had an affect on the options they are considering.
Closing schools and consolidating student populations isn’t without its merits. Larger schools don’t always mean larger class sizes, but they do mean more resources available to the students. And a larger student population brings the possibility of greater social interaction with a child’s peers. Next to academics, social development and integration are the greatest benefits of the public school system.
Financially, the benefits are obvious. Shuttering schools reduces costs for the school district, but it also creates the possibility of an increased income stream, through either rental or sale of the properties.
Parents aren’t going to stop worrying about how a school closure will affect their child’s education, but as you attend the upcoming consultation sessions, it is important to keep in mind that there are positives as well.