Here we go again! Another year, another neighbourhood school on the chopping block. This time, Puntledge Park Elementary.
Small schools throughout the province are threatened with closure, because public education in this province is underfunded.
Now the Comox Valley is facing a number of challenges-an aging population coupled with a declining enrolment in our schools.
Retirees, mostly from other provinces, are going to have to reinvest in our public schools. They bring life experience, financial expertise and leadership skills to their new homes in the Comox Valley.
All the recent social planning reports indicate that the Comox Valley will continue to move toward service industry jobs. These will be the new jobs for our young people – in small business, heath, education, recreation, financial services, etc.
But for our young people to stay and invest in our community, we are going to have to invest in them and in their children’s education. Comprehensive, neighborhood community schools must be the goal. Each community school should act as a hub for the delivery of services, including quality day care, recreation, skills training, etc.
Surely we cannot be serious about revitalizing the Courtenay core at the same time as contemplating school closures.
The simple truth is that we community members collectively own the schools and we are going to have to work together to develop a far-reaching plan for preserving even the smallest one, in all of our interests.
In an article I submitted last year on the plight of neighborhood schools, I suggested that people look no further then Union Bay to see the effect of closing their only school. Young parents, moving – not anymore!
We need to develop a new vision for this school district. It must be owned by the community and implemented by their elected trustees. The community must insist on a new spirit of leadership and accountability which restores ownership of their schools to the citizens of the Comox Valley.
To that end, all stakeholders must come together, early in the New Year, to begin the process. Let’s commit to strengthening a sense of community.