News‎ > ‎

Cape Breton Victoria Superintendent Report April, 2010

posted May 31, 2010, 10:19 AM by
The following is an excerpt from the Cape Breton Victoria Superintendant’s Report.

As we begin the 2010-2011 budget development process, there are several issues that need to be kept in mind……..

There is an almost legendary quality around small school closures that those of us who have survived such events have a true appreciation. I would like to direct my remarks towards rural and small school communities and their reactions to the threat of school closures. I believe that such background is extremely useful and beneficial to elected board members who have the ultimate responsibility for identifying which schools should be reviewed for possible closure. One must understand that regional school boards’ experiences with small and rural school closures have remained controversial and traumatic and continues to be one of the most difficult issues faced by school boards and administrators.

The Department of Education has expressed its commitment in respect to rural and remote community schools as being an important community asset that supports area vibrancy, economic vitality and social connections. The value to the community should and can reach beyond the educational services that are provided within the facility. The Department of Education will be exploring, with school boards and other department partners, possible approaches that could enhance the use of school facilities, particularly those that are underutilized due to declining enrolments.

Alternate uses to be explored include: the provision of interagency services that supports children, youth & families, daycare programs, community support centers that provide adult education and parenting workshops or programs and services that promote healthy living. Again, there may be opportunities to enhance the School Plus Pilots or colocate key community services within a school to support maximizing school capacity.

Over the past number of years, the Department of Education did a comprehensive review of the guidelines for reviewing small rural or remote schools. Most of the more urgent concerns were in respect to timelines and schedules, full and sincere participation by all stakeholders, availability of relevant data and lastly the provision for the community to create their own report. One has to understand that there are more crucial concerns for communities. They wanted to have significant attention given to the impact on the community, keep their children in the community and have a traditional pedagogical approach with their children.

Extolling the virtue of the revised guidelines for the identification of schools for review does not reduce community opposition to subsequent closures. It has a tendency to exacerbate the opposite. These guidelines in no way persuade communities to be more satisfied to accept the fact that their schools may close. There should be nothing less than a guarantee that the schools will remain in the communities, that the rural or small school education is valuable and acceptable and that the school itself is the heart and soul of the cultural, economic and educational aspects of the community. Lastly, to believe that the school community acceptance of a school closure will be enhanced by detailed regulated guidelines is a myth. The process has contradicting effects on bringing about a reduction of resistance against closures.

The greater consideration is having the Department of Education, the regional boards and the larger communities of Nova Scotia realize that there is a comprehensive concept of small and rural education that has value and should not be dismissed because of political, fiscal and ignorant considerations.

In the present state of the global downturn in economics, it is not the time to further attack small communities by closing their schools while in the midst of decreasing population, lack of labor opportunities and the vagaries of living in a depressed economic area………”