School is back in session and certain parents around the city are taking on an extracurricular assignment – saving a school.
The Nanaimo school district has identified Rutherford Elementary as a facility it will consider closing to balance the budget. Woodlands Secondary, Woodbank Primary and North Cedar Intermediate schools are also being considered for closure, as in previous years. For Rutherford parents, though, the news came as a rude surprise around report card time last spring.
Unfortunately, these surprises could mar many a school year to come. As education costs rise relative to the government’s per-student funding and Nanaimo’s population ticks only slowly upward, trustees simply won’t have alternatives.
The new school board dropped the previous board’s 10-year plan in the recycling bin, leaving us with a more unpredictable facilities strategy. This isn’t the wrong way, necessarily, but if closures are coming, then it’s sensible to have a long-term plan with connected steps. We hope that kind of forethought becomes part of the dialogue, even though parents, rightly, will want to focus on their kids and the virtues of their neighbourhood school.
It seems a shame to be talking about closures the first week of classes, but there is never a good time to raise this subject. It’s better that Nanaimo’s trustees – many of whom campaigned on community consultation – are leaving many months for discussion and debate.
We expect parents will reject closure, criticize, argue, and propose alternatives. It will make for better decision-making, and it will teach kids that it’s better to be active than passive.
We want our schools open, while still maintaining and improving the learning environment for all our students. That’s this year’s extracurricular assignment, and yes, this is going to be on the test.