Monday, April 19, 2010

School Closures Never Easy But How Are They Decided?

The recent process that the Edmonton Public School Board went through resulted in the closure of a number of schools.  There was a very interesting Edmonton Journal story that only ran in the on-line editions.  It will help citizens get an idea on what basis the elected Trustees used to come to those decisions.

I think it is terrific that the public gets to see and read the opinions and reasoning behind those opinions of each of the elected school Trustees.  You don't see that kind of accountability and transparency in the hyper-partisan message managing, command and contol world of provincial government politics these days.  We can actually see the different perspectives and personal thinking of the School Trustee policy makers in this Edmonton Journal piece.  Whether yo agree or disagree, this openness is refreshing!

Full disclosure:  My firm did some research for the EPSB on the values that Edmontonians thought should guide Trustees around school closures. Here is a link to an earlier blog post where I linked to the findings of that research.  

The earllier blog post also outlines my feelings about finding more collaborative and creative set of solutions as viable alternatives to school closures.  That search for viable alternatives will take cooperation between School Trustees and municipal politicians and their respective administrations.  There are barriers to coming up with a reasonable set of alternative proposals but they are mostly due to an ineffective adherance to a traditional political culture bias and just plain hide-bound thinking . 

There must be pressure applied on local politicians, at the school board and municipal levels, to find mutually acceptable proposals to preserve schools and enhance communities.  They will then have to be presented to the provincial government to bring them on board too but if there is a demonstrated and overt demands by taxpayers/voters for change, it will happen.  We saw it in health care - public education should be next.

The current provincial, school board and municipal policy approaches around school clousres are not adept at serving the best interests of citizens, parents, students, taxpayers or other potential users of such facilities.  There are municipal and school board elections in October and a provincial election in 2 years.  The political timing seems perfect to make some serious policy changes and to update the principles and approaches to school use and community use of schools too. 

What do you think Edmonton?  Should we find better alternatives to low enrollment schools other than closure and consolidation?  Can't we make the facilities community based in ways that serve kids, families and the needs of the surrounding community?  Looking forward to your comments.  I will make more specific suggestions on how to do this in future blog posts -  so stay tuned.