Opinion

Cedar kids caught in schoolyard scrap

The wheels on the bus go ’round and ’round as Cedar Secondary School is steered toward closure.

The Save Cedar Schools group has focused its energies lately on school buses, but it hasn’t put aside its mandate, and it won’t, at least not until the bitter end.

In recent weeks, the school board has been examining the problem of transporting Cedar kids to their high school of choice – Ladysmith Secondary School or John Barsby Secondary School. Though Barsby is the catchment school, more than half of Cedar parents would rather their children attend Ladysmith, so the district is thinking about expanding bus service.

With this busing issue at the forefront, it might seem that Cedar’s closure is being considered a foregone conclusion, but it’s not. Save Cedar Schools still seeks salvation – haggling over bus routes is just a backup plan.

The group has exhausted most of its ideas on how to save its school, going with tried and tested methods – protesting, writing letters to the editor, layman budgeting and heckling at board meetings.

Now it’s placing one last bet, that the judicial review being sought by the Snuneymuxw First Nation will give Cedar Secondary a second chance. Nanaimo school district has filed its response and a hearing is expected in early March, ensuring there are at least a few more weeks before any hint of resolution.

There’s no point apportioning blame, but when a school is closed, students are uprooted and a community is affected, one has to wonder why. Declining enrolment and changing demographics are real reasons. Underfunding of public education means that school boards – legally required to run balanced budgets – are put in no-win situations year after year.

In Nanaimo, there’s another contributing factor, too. It’s fair to look back at the last facilities plan from 2007, when trustees – and we as the electorate are culpable, too – couldn’t decide what to close and what to build with millions of dollars of committed government funding. It only delayed the inevitable, and since then, there’s been inflation and it turns out it costs a little bit more to build a high school these days. Cedar Secondary wasn’t on the chopping block in 2007 and it is now in 2014, and it’s a legitimate question to wonder what changed over those years.

Saving a school can happen, both in feel-good ’80s movies and in real life, and it might happen in Cedar.

The problem with these sorts of schoolyard scraps is that kids could come out the worse for wear. Teenagers already undergo a ton of stress – think braces, bullying, oral presentations, social media. Moving to a new school is another stressor. So should parents be trying to make their kids excited about a new school and willing to embrace change? If parents are resisting this change, does that make it harder? Conversely, if parents didn’t stand up for their beliefs, what message would that send?

If Cedar closes, at least we can be certain there are school communities at Ladysmith and John Barsby that are going to be welcoming their new classmates and peers. We can take heart knowing there are best friends who just haven’t met yet.

And hey, if Cedar teens can handle extracurriculars in between bus rides, there’s a school band that could use another trombone; there’s a pretty darn good football team that will appreciate some added muscle.

Maybe we’ll be able to cheer the first time a Cedar athlete scores a touchdown for the Barsby Bulldogs. Maybe we’ll get that warm, fuzzy feeling when a Cedar boy takes a Harewood girl to prom.

Or maybe we won’t even notice the difference, because they’ll all just be kids from our community.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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