Trustees faced dilemma worthy of Mr. Spock: Our View

We say: No alternative to closure was put forward

In deciding the fate of two elementary schools in School District 72, the Board of School Trustees took a path worthy of Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame – i.e., the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Of course, no one has lost sight of the fact that this is not a television series trivia exercise, this is the lives of families and the education of young minds. However, Spock’s logic applies.

There’s nobody in this community that does not want our children to receive the best education possible. We all know, however, that education is expensive. In British Columbia right now, we’re struggling with paying for our system of education.

Some will say we don’t have the resources to deliver the Cadillac system we’ve been used to in the post-World War II period. Others will say that our resources are being used by the provincial government on priorities that are different from what they would spend tax dollars on. A valid point.

In deciding to close Oyster River and Discovery Passage schools, SD72 trustees affirmed that the decision was the only one they could make within the funding constraints the province has imposed on them. The school district is given a pot of money based on enrollment and some other, lesser, factors. The district has to operate our schools with that pot of money.

Unfortunately, it has proven to be more expensive to run Oyster River and Discovery Passage schools than other schools closer to the urban core. Also, those schools were among the least attended. If the demand – in terms of enrollment –  for those schools was there, then the need to close them wouldn’t be. Keeping those schools open at a cost to other schools operating at a higher, therefore, more efficient capacity isn’t equitable to the students and neighbourhoods that attend those other schools.

For parents to accuse the trustees of having made up their minds is not exactly fair. Although it may be sort of true.

The district asked the communities to come to them with reasons to not close the schools because closure was the only solution staff and elected officials could come up with.

So, yes, trustees had made up their mind because they had been investigating this issue for weeks and months before. Nobody else was able to come up with an alternative, except just keep spending more money per capita on a low-capacity school than on schools serving other neighbourhoods at higher or full capacity.

It’s a harsh conclusion. We all would like to have small classrooms and fully-funded schools but we have to decide how we’re going to pay for that. If we want the province to spend more tax dollars on education then that message has to go to Victoria and the main tool for convincing legislators is, of course, the ballot box.

That won’t help Oyster River and Discovery Passage schools now because they ended up on the wrong side of Spock’s logic.