11 January 2017
For immediate release
Bevan-Baker wants alternatives explored in School Review
Green Party of PEI Leader Peter Bevan-Baker is reacting with mixed feelings about the draft School Review reports released yesterday by the Public Schools Branch.
Bevan-Baker recognizes some positive aspects of the review such as the reduced overcrowding in urban schools and the improved effort to better engage Islanders in this process. However, he is deeply concerned about the closure of four rural schools and the effects this will have on Island communities.
“There has been a strong emphasis throughout this process on efficiencies and the need to reduce the costs of operating rural schools, but the cheapest option on the surface is not always the best,” said Bevan-Baker. He argues that the limited scope of the review may ignore the wider societal cost of the proposed changes. “We need to recognize the broader and long-term impacts of our schools on all aspects of our communities.”
“Decisions on whether to maintain or close rural schools affect more than simply the bottom line of the Department of Education. Other government priorities depend on schools, including the population growth strategy, economic development, workforce, health care, and the vitality of both our rural and urban communities. I don’t see much evidence here of a broader vision for the well-being of our Island.”
Bevan-Baker has a few suggestions for government and the Public Schools Branch as they consider the recommendations of the School Review. “There is huge potential for our schools to help build vibrant communities by acting as hubs for community services like libraries, fitness centres, or daycares. We should explore this potential before we close any schools.”
He also suggests that departments need to work together more collaboratively to consider how all social and economic sectors will be affected by the proposed changes. “We could, for example, create a ‘roundtable on rural’ to bring together senior government officials from all departments to holistically examine these and other issues affecting rural PEI. We should consider all possible outcomes, positive and negative, before implementing these recommendations.”
Bevan-Baker is encouraging Islanders to share their concerns in the upcoming round of public engagement, and for government and the Public Schools Branch to listen closely to what they hear.
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