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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Media contact:
Peter Bevan-Baker
902-368-4339 (office), 902-388-8171 (cell)
psbevanbaker@assembly.pe.ca

 

8 Comments

  1. Barry Bigger 11 January 2017 at 3:19 pm

    Peter again you are right on the money. Schools are buildings which can be positively utilized in the growth and development (in all contexts) of rural communities on PEI eg the art community, adult learning, markets etc. I believe that the dollars they are wasting protecting Ghiz et al, paying lawyers etc could go a long way in developing, initiating and supporting our rural communities ie our Island fabric.
    I have to strongly disagree however on one point, that “senior government officials” should be involved. All these characters are committed to is protecting the urban areas, protecting their cronies and filling their pocketbooks.

     
  2. W.Wilkins 11 January 2017 at 3:50 pm

    The closure of schools and the effects on the constituencies, other than the student constituency, is important to understand. But, those effects are hard to predict and even harder to measure. After all, there are thriving rural communities that don’t have a school dedicated or isolated to those communities.

    While mine may not be a popular opinion to post on this site, I would offer that the effect of school closure on students, the constituency that ought to be of most concern to us, may not be negative. Those effects – the indicators being teaching and learning – are not only more important, they are easier to predict and measure.

    I am not a lover of schools with huge populations. However, I do believe that for a school to run properly, sufficient programming requires a sufficient number of students. The same as churches, firehalls, service clubs, hospitals, businesses, sport teams . . . so too, schools.

    I wish the schools that will be closed had the appropriate number of students to offer the appropriate number of programs. However, an argument has been made that they do not. And, because the argument to close schools speaks to our children’s education, not economics, not municipal interests or business interests, isn’t the argument to close schools persuasive?

     
    • Marie Nantes 12 January 2017 at 8:17 pm

      I certainly appreciate your point of view, Walter. At the end of the day, it should be the school’s primary goal to offer the most up to date facilities , ( well equipped science and technology labs) , band and sports programs, French Immersion , challenging curricula, and at the same time meeting the needs of all learners. To offer this in today’s world demands concise planning, efficient use of resources and strong fiscal decisions. Our students deserve no less.

       
  3. darcielanthier 12 January 2017 at 12:24 am

    We do not need an appropriate number of students to offer the appropriate number of programs now, that’s what we needed twenty years ago. Now we can bring the world into the classroom with the flip of a switch.
    Bigger is not always better and children to not learn more after a 55 minute bus ride.

     
    • Walter Wilkins 12 January 2017 at 12:57 am

      Darcie, too true, but the train left on that in 1972. What we need now is relevant curriculum. Critical thinking; not in the historical mandate of public schooling? I could be wrong, but where’s the evidence?

       
  4. W.Wilkins 12 January 2017 at 11:44 am

    Okay, this is my last go at it.

    There may be good reasons to keep a school open, but to argue that a school is the heart and soul of a community? How is that argument supported?

    Some make the claim that to remove a school is a death sentence, the implication being that a community without a school isn’t a place worth living. However, to the best of my knowledge, Prince Edward Island has 2 cities, 10 towns and in total, 647 named places, many of which consider themselves – and are – communities. But, there are only 45 public schools in PEI. Since 21 of those schools are in 3 communities, that leaves 626 places without a school.

    Does that mean Prince Edward Island has 626 communities not worth living in because they don’t have a school?

    Public schooling has been my life. I’ve been a teacher and a principal in small schools and large schools and I’ve loved both experiences. Most importantly, regardless of the size of the building, I loved the students. There are plenty of challenges and problems in the school system. In my not so humble opinion, where the building resides may be the most visible, but it’s the least important problem.

    It breaks my heart that Islanders are not outraged about the real issues – the relevance and design of the curriculum, the quality of instruction, how performance is measured and reported, the alignment of teacher skills with teaching assignments, the degree to which the prescribed curriculum is actually being delivered, the diagnosis and attention to individual learning needs . . . and other pressing issues. However, we’re willing to go to war over bricks and mortar?

    Yep, it breaks my heart, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that ignoring the real challenges is breaking our children – that does matter, and we’re doing very little about it.

     
  5. George and Neila Auld 12 January 2017 at 9:16 pm

    With smaller schools, we have smaller classroom sizes. The focus should be resources to bring services to our children. They are our future, and their future.This includes more teachers and Educational Assistants working with our children. Not increasing classroom sizes.I volunteered at our local school (tutoring one-on-one) and came to the conclusion I was enabling the system that deprived children of the special needs they required from educators trained in their needs.I agree, “we are breaking our children” and this is a sad situation.And, YES, schools are the heart of a community in rural PEI.

     
  6. Scott Mollins 15 January 2017 at 11:54 am

    Walter is right on the money with his last paragraphs on quality of education vs bricks and mortar. And if buildings can be repurposed like Peter suggests this might make le
    monade out of lemons…

     

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