British Columbians and Prince George sent a clear message to the provincial government that they weren’t happy with the funding situation for education.
To the Liberals’ credit, it appears they heard the message and responded. In the budget announced Tuesday the government pledged to restore the Annual Facilities Grant, increase core funding, and fully fund all-day Kindergarten and teacher salary increases. The government previously announced a rebate for school districts on the provincial portion of the HST.
Although the final funding numbers for each district won’t come until March 15, it will likely be good news for the Prince George School District.
But it doesn’t mean that schools will not, and should not, close.
Enrolment in the district has declined by nearly 2,000 students in the past five years and is predicted to drop by another 2,000 by 2014. Barring a major influx of young families, it seems unlikely that is going to change.
The district has capacity for 4,000 more students than it currently has.
Keeping all those empty classrooms open costs money which would be better spent on classrooms with children in them for things like smaller class sizes and supports for special-needs children.
Depending on how much financial flexibility the district receives from the budget changes, keeping rural schools like Giscome Elementary and Nukko Lake Elementary open is important. Kindergarten children shouldn’t have to commute four hours a day on a bus.
Maintaining community access to French immersion and keeping the traditional program at Central Fort George Traditional Elementary alive are also priorities.
Unfortunately, consolidating smaller schools within city limits does make sense. If it’s not done now, the district will have to go through this process again in a few years.
The schools left open today have to continue to be sustainable in the future.
It’s always sad to see schools close. No one wants to have it happen to their children’s school or the school they used to go to.
But the important thing to remember is that schools are just buildings: bricks, concrete and mortar. Schools don’t teach kids, teachers teach kids.
What’s important for children is to have teachers who have time to help and mentor them.