Feb 14,2007 - Now News


In 13 days, school trustees will vote on whether or not to close schools.

It would be mean-spirited of them to throw the communities of eight schools - the number on the chopping block -into turmoil and then choose to do nothing, meaning the only thing we can be sure of is that some schools will be mothballed.

While the focus now is on parents fighting to keep their child's school open, much larger issues are at the root of this debate.

One involves how to address a declining school-age population -something school districts across the continent are grappling with.

Yes, a declining birth rate is a contributing factor, but there are districts -Surrey is the prime example -that are growing.

Why are young families gravitating to Surrey instead of to the Tri-Cities? Probably because it's more affordable to live there.

Recent stories on property assessments certainly made it clear that while portions of Port Coquitlam continue to be relatively affordable, most of Port Moody and Coquitlam are not.

And that could very well be the larger issue that is going to affect Tri-Cities residents, whether or not they are parents.

A school means a playground, sports fields, climbing equipment and a place for Scouts and Girl Guides to meet. Neighbourhood schools give an area a focal point, a place to gather and an identity. So whether or not your nearest school is on the closure list, you should be concerned.

Another issue involves the school district's long-term planning. Surely trustees and staff aren't content to close schools in reaction to budget shortfalls and lack of funding for seismic upgrades.

Long-term, realistic planning is needed, and it's time the Tri-Cities faced some unpleasant truths about where this area is headed. To enable this discussion, however, all five municipalities, the school district and developers will have to swallow their collective pride and have a frank dialogue about the future livability of our community.

Meanwhile, consider attending the school closure meeting set for Tuesday night. You may think you're not personally affected, but you are.

published on 02/14/2007