Tuesday, November 2, 2010

What is Our Kids trying to say?

I remain puzzled by this post over at Our Kids that popped across my horizon in a tweet the other day. For the uninitiated, myself included, it's about school closures in Vancouver. I'll admit I'm out of my element when speaking about how school funding and the accommodation processes work in British Columbia. This article though, left me scratching my head. Definitely, the point that school closures are not a simple subject by any means is made and understood. I'm left wanting however-- in the examples cited, what are the student populations? What are the physical conditions of the schools involved? There is a reference to demographics at one point -- that enrolment is up slightly despite the much larger predicited decrease -- but nothing on which direction the overall enrolment trends might be heading, other than a vague reference that it's expected to rebound. Rebound to what? To the same level it was at when?
Here's an example of what I mean.
It’s also a matter of placing more importance on quality than quantity. The provincial government may have to rethink, or be more flexible, with the funding model that provides financial support for each school district in B.C. based on the number of students enrolled. Whenever possible, we urgently need to find ways to tackle budget cuts and financial efficiencies without uprooting school communities.
Still, the issue is not black and white.  School trustees are conserving and using resources in the most productive way in deciding to close certain schools with low enrollment numbers, says Charles Ungerleider, professor of sociology of education at the University of British Columbia and a former deputy minister of education for B.C.. It’s justified to close a school in cases when a school is only filled to partial capacity, devoting pricey heating, lighting and cleaning services to the “surplus” space, he says in an interview with Our Kids Media.
In the wake of the erosion of public school funding, private schools, which have reportedly seen an increase in enrollment in B.C., can be an excellent alternative as they tend to offer smaller classes and high academic standards. But unfortunately not everyone can qualify for financial support or afford to send their children there.
Regardless of the numbers involved with budgets and private school fees, quality education and the ability to keep school communities together should not only be a privilege, but a right for everyone. We need to treat children and schools not just as numbers, but as valuable communities and the key to healthy societies. We need to invest in education, our schools and our children, in every way we can.
This piece, I think, points to an attempt to explain a school-closure process, but without providing all the necessary context. Saying school closures are complicated and can change a community is not cutting-edge-- it's well known and given that change is the one constant in education, should be anything but surprising.