It’s often said “never look a gift horse in the mouth.”
That certainly applies when we are talking about the latest funding announcement from the province, a rural education fund that may take Trout Creek Elementary off the list of schools to be closed at the end of this school year.
This is certainly a gift for the Okanagan Skaha School District, especially the students at the school, their parents and the Trout Creek community that has been fighting so hard to prevent the closure.
MLA Dan Ashton said the funding came about because the province became aware of a problem — closing schools in rural and semi-rural communities — and put in some hard work and long hours to find the funding to address it.
Schools in these smaller communities have an importance that goes beyond being an educational centre, according to both Ashton and Premier Christy Clark. They are at the centre of community life and economy. True enough, but this was also true 10 months ago when school districts across the province, facing declining enrolment and shrinking budgets began considering which schools they would need to close.
Linda Van Alphen, chair of the Okanagan Skaha school board, said they began that process with the idea that closing schools was a last resort, but that being able to provide the best education for students was more important than buildings.
Choosing which schools to close was not an easy task. The school board spent the next 10 months listening to parents, teachers and students about why their school was too vital, too necessary to their community to be considered for closure. That intensified after the decision was made, with tears and anger and even obscenities directed at the school board as parents fought a last-ditch effort.
The rural education fund is absolutely welcome, but it would have been better if the province had recognized the problem before the eleventh hour, after school boards were forced to make difficult decisions.