LETTER: The Slocan Valley schools elephant

With the potential closure of Winlaw School being discussed, I really think it’s time someone talks about the elephant on the table.

Talk of closing Winlaw elementary isn't the first time Slocan Valley schools have been under fire

With the potential closure of Winlaw School being discussed, I really think it’s time someone talks about the elephant on the table. Over the years the school trustees in SD8 have made decisions in the Slocan Valley that have created anger, resentment, economic hardship and divided communities and I feel they’re about to do it again. Were they done consciously, vindictively, with malice in mind? Of course not. Everyone came to the show with the best of intentions.

The last time the Slocan Valley saw the elephant was in the 1980s when the board decided to enforce catchment areas and make Winlaw students go to W.E. Graham in a vain attempt to save the secondary grades there. Parents who wanted their kids to go south to school were very upset. Some parents would drive their kids south. One family even bought a house in the south valley to get the education they wanted their kids to have. At one point, there was a blockade/protest on Lebahdo Flats, to prevent the busses passing. It was an ugly, traumatic time and much resentment was created.

Today some of the kids who were at Winlaw school during that time are the parents of children now attending Winlaw school. Time has healed a lot of those earlier resentments, but another board decision could be setting it all in motion again.

This was not a one-off event. If you reach deeper in our area’s educational history, remember what happened in the 1950s when the provincial government and school board (with the help of the RCMP) decided Freedomite children had to go to school. Mass roundups, children in school compounds, weeping parents at chain-linked fences. Demonstrations and marches that created several generations of anger and resentment. What remains today of that saga is the now aging population that were those children, many still carrying that emotional baggage.

I was just reading the consideration of closure FAQs put out by SD8 staff. The buzz words are “under-utilization” and “deferred maintenance costs.” Kids seem to be defined as dollar-per-head units and there was precious little about quality of education or value of community. The elephant for this generation is taking shape.

I’ll mention that I’m currently the custodian at Winlaw school, but I’m not writing from that perspective. I’m writing from the point of view of my 20 years as the recreation co-ordinator in the Slocan Valley for the RDCK, having retired in 2011. One of my underlining programming goals was community building: creating activities that would bring folks from diverse backgrounds together to have a common positive experience.

So when I hear the chance of a valley school being closed, you can guess how I feel. At one community meeting, senior staff even hinted at enforcing catchment boundaries again! We have had enough divisiveness in the Slocan Valley. This is not what this community needs and I’m pretty sure it’s not what the trustees want either.

I hope the trustees, whether from Nelson, Creston, Meadow Creek, Salmo or Slocan, take this into consideration during their deliberations. The whole issue of “under-utilization” is just the latest fiction. What are the cost savings and what is the cost? Remember, the elephant is very real, so please recognize that it is still sitting there waiting.

Craig Lawrence, Winlaw

 

Just Posted

Castlegar mayor releases FCM itinerary

Bruno Tassone delivers promised report on activities at Quebec City municipal conference

COLUMN: 1919 – Police chief reminds drivers of streetcar etiquette

Greg Scott takes us back to a century ago in the files of the Nelson Daily News

Nelson archers host meet

The Nelson Rod and Gun Club hosted 78 archers

Family Fishing Weekend marks 20th anniversary

Event planned at Cottonwood Lake on Sunday

Screen, song, and the power of words

Anne DeGrace on the delights of the upcoming Elephant Mountain Literary Festival

VIDEO: First Nations, developer call for return and protection of sacred B.C. burial site

Dozens of First Nations leaders gather on grassy plateau to call on action by provincial government

You might not know these B.C. records are public

Hired a lawyer to file a civil claim? Those are published online

Teen stabbed after end-of-night limo dispute in downtown Vancouver

A young man, 19, is in serious condition following a dispute between two groups

B.C. bus driver loses case to get job back after texting while driving full bus

An arbitator ruled that Tim Wesman’s phone usage was a “a reckless disregard for public safety”

Revamped B.C. Lions set to battle veteran Winnipeg Blue Bombers

The Lions’ first test of the season will be a big one

No business case for Trans Mountain expansion, says former environment minister

Cabinet is expected to announce its decision on the expansion of the Alberta-to-B.C. pipeline by Tuesday

LETTER: British Columbia’s forest industry crisis being made worse

Andrew Wilkinson warns of regulatory overload by John Horgan’s NDP

Convicted B.C. child abductor Randall Hopley back in custody 6 months after release

Correctional Services Canada could not provide further details due to privacy concerns

Bears have killed 17 people in B.C. since 1986

Number of bear complaints and bears killed rose sharply during same period

Most Read