by Adrienne Mason

As a Christmas gift to our communities I’d like to encourage everyone to write a letter (or three) expressing your concern over the impending changes to education on the west coast. Even though we think Wickaninnish Community School may be “safe” for now, our children go to high school in Ucluelet and, more importantly, we all need to stick together on this. Changes to education on the west coast affect us all.

In rural towns, schools form the heart of communities. A quick glance through the small businesses in Tofino and it’s clear that young families are a huge part of the community’s fabric — SoBo, Breakers, Tony’s Pizza, LA Grocery,  Pacific Earthworks, Stick in the Mud Landscaping, the Long Beach Golf Course, The Whale Centre, EcoEverything, Tofino Bus, and on and on — all of the people running these businesses and more have young children. It is already an incredible challenge to encourage young families to live here and any further cuts to our already crippled education system

The presentation given to communities by School District 70 is available here: http://www.sd70.bc.ca/documents/SD70%20Oper%20Rev%20Backgd%20Dec09.pdf

While cuts have been happening for years, things really ramped up this fall when the provincial Liberal government yanked $980,000 out from under School District 70. This money was already spent over the summer for work on facilities. (Yes, perhaps not prudent, but it was a grant received every year for 20 years and the work must be done in the summer while the schools are empty.) This loss of almost a million dollars has left the school district scrambling. This alone is a “talking point” especially in light of the money spent elsewhere by this government. Education is not a priority.

Options presented by SD 70 to make up for the short-fall include: reviewing all staffing levels, reviewing all service levels (transportation, custodial, maintenance), closing facilities, altering the school year, not replacing retiring administrators (e.g., principals), and exploring ways to increase enrolment and revenue (e.g., international students).  What does this mean on the ground? Perhaps longer days and/or a compressed school week, amalgamation of the Ucluelet elementary and secondary schools into one facility, further cuts to staffing (teaching, administration and support), are just a few of the options being batted around.

I encourage everyone to educate themselves on this critical issue soon and make their voices heard. Writing letters is preferable to e-mail, but however you choose to help, please do so soon.

Letters should go to:

School District #70 (Alberni)
(Cam Pinkerton, Superintendent)
4690 Roger St.
Port Alberni, B.C.
V9Y 3Z4
cpinkerton@sd70.bc.ca

BC Minister of Education – Hon. Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, Minister of Education
margaret.macdiarmid.mla@leg.bc.ca
Room 347
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

Scott Fraser, MLA for Alberni-Pacific Rim
scott.fraser.mla@leg.bc.ca
Room 201
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC
V8V 1X4

Robin Austin, MLA
Opposition Education Critic
robin.austin.mla@leg.bc.ca
Rm 201, Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

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