Opinion

EDITORIAL: The bigger picture related to school closures in Parksville Qualicum Beach

At a time when it's important to look forward, it's difficult not to look back.

Three years ago, Lynette Kershaw was one of the leaders of the group trying to keep Kwalikum Secondary School from closing. In fact, it launched her into politics and she won a seat on the school board later that year.

On Tuesday night, Kershaw was the chair of the board, voting to close four elementary schools. She noted the irony — our word, not hers — herself on Tuesday night.

Simple math and the realities of funding were impossible to ignore for the school board this year. With 6,000 spaces and 4,000 students, school closures were the logical, perhaps only, option to deal with the district's massive budget deficit.

Three years ago, much was made about the process being flawed. To superintendent Rollie Koop and the trustees' credit, that was not an issue this time around. There was more than enough time and meetings set aside for public consultation.

Thing is, that 6,000/4,000 elephant was always in the room.

Qualicum Beach was not targeted. The elementary school, because of its unique location, was a little different from others, but it's important to note Parksville lost two elementary schools and Coombs lost its only school, which is also in the heart of its community.

What's important is to look forward, to see what can be done to ensure our communities don't continue this downward demographic slide. While politicians like Qualicum Beach Mayor Teunis Westbroek and Coun. Scott Tanner often seem to favour any action that has the word "defer" in it, truth is the last 10 years have not been banner years for the growth and demographic diversity of their town. If the town's retention and attraction "strategy" they like to refer to has shown any tangible results, we have not seen them.

It's time for something completely different. Perhaps it's even more incentives to encourage family-friendly development. Perhaps tax breaks for new businesses. Perhaps the digital arts studio idea needs more support — read money — from taxpayers (send consultant Patricia Huntsman on recruiting trips?).

It's time to think outside the box.

— Editorial by John Harding

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