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Dec 6,2006 - The NOW News


Bloy, Black see need, Farnworth, Thorne cite underfunding

By Simone Blais - Staff Reporter

The MLA for Port Moody-Westwood has come out in favour of school closures, adding that he's disappointed that school trustees haven't done something to address declining enrolment before now.

"I am disappointed that more incremental action has not been taken over each of the past five years to address the annual, significant decrease in student population," Liberal Iain Black said Monday.

"That has created the now distressing and very upsetting scenario of potentially closing a whole bunch of schools at once."

After a year of talking with parents, teachers, administrators, staff and other interested parties, Black compiled his findings into A Community Report on Education. (See story, Page 12.)

In that report, Black states "with funding at an all-time high," now is the time to deal with the 4.8-per-cent enrolment decline seen in the last five years.

"I understand that taking incremental action is not easy and that it creates meaningful and ongoing pressure from the various unions, as well as stress for all the families affected," Black wrote. "But the alternative course of action chosen by the trustees has resulted in spending your tax dollars on administration, heating and overhead costs of redundant school infrastructure, leaving less for the real priority - our students."

Eight schools could close because of lack of students, after School District 43 trustees voted in favour of the declining enrolment measure last week.

Also on Monday, two NDP MLAs in the Tri-Cities issued a joint press release opposing the move to close schools - with Diane Thorne (Coquitlam-Maillardville) and Mike Farnworth (Port Coquitlam-Burke Mountain) stating they were "shocked" to hear the news.

"Both our constituency offices have been flooded with calls from constituents who are upset about the closure of these schools," Farnworth said, citing the Liberal government's failure to fully fund seismic upgrades as part of the problem.

"Rising construction costs have meant a quick decline in the number of schools that are going to be seismically upgraded in our district," he said.

Thorne said the news is "especially upsetting," given Millside Elementary is set to celebrate its 100th birthday in a few months.

"When education is chronically underfunded, when new costs are downloaded to school boards and when agreements are left unfunded, something has to give," Thorne said.

Harry Bloy, Liberal MLA for Burquitlam, however, applauded the school board for taking the first steps to address enrolment decline, even though, "When you close a school, there's so much emotion attached to it.

"You have to look at how much the school enrolment has been declining over the last number of years," he said, adding that schools at full capacity can provide more programs and services than lower-enrolment schools.

"When they have to look at reducing the number of schools, they have to look at the quality of education they can provide to the child as well. I think this is where the big benefit comes in."

Elementary schools on the list for possible

closure include College Park, Coronation Park, Lincoln, Meadowbrook, Millside, Moody, Mountain View and Vanier.

A decision is expected in March.

published on 12/06/2006

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