Signals coming from the province’s new education minister about how school boards are funding must be welcome news to people in rural communities who felt as though they were under siege for the last several years.
Karen Casey is suggesting the method of funding school boards in Nova Scotia needs to change. She said basing the amount of funding on enrolment figures alone no longer works because it places rural schools at a disadvantage and puts them at risk of closure when, in many cases, they are the community meeting place.
That has to be welcome news to parents, students and staff at small schools such as Wentworth Elementary and at River Hebert’s high school and elementary. Too many times in the past they have felt as though they were under the gun because the number of students attending classes there has continued to decline.
For Wentworth, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board, has already indicated that it plans to close its school and move students to either Pugwash or Oxford, while in River Hebert there are hopes that the combined Primary to Grade 12 facility will end the discussions.
We do expect our political leaders to spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely and there are some cases when closing a school makes more sense than keeping it open, especially when there aren’t enough students to offer proper programming. However, as long as the base curriculum can be delivered effectively, closing schools simply to save money causes irreparable harm to the communities affected, takes children out of their communities and could negatively impact the quality of education they receive.
Let’s hope Casey is true to her word and does take another look at the province’s funding formula. More importantly, we can only hope she enters into a healthy dialog with our school boards instead of taking the adversarial approach of her NDP predecessor.