Sunday, April 11, 2010

School Closures and the Inner City's Future

This Tuesday, the Edmonton Public School Board is going to vote to close several inner city schools. The rationale is that the space to usage ratio is off balance, not enough students are enrolled, and these students' needs could be met elsewhere.

I can speak to one of the potential closures personally, since I am part of that community. In McCauley, the school serves a lot of immigrant families who have neither the resources (like, a car) or the time (because they work long hours) to shuttle their children to new schools. These families also want to keep their cultural communities together rather then be dispersed throughout the city.

McCauley is undergoing revitalization right now under the supervision of the City of Edmonton. Part of the plan is to get more young families to buy homes in the area. The EPSB is flying directly against the city's plans. Without a school it will be much more difficult to attract families with children. There is no public school within walking distance of McCauley, should McCauley School close.

Yes, the buildings are big, but the design styles of the time in which they were built was different. And frankly, they are beautiful. Why must be keep moving to the gated-community, white-picket fence mentality of architecture in everything? But most importantly, children and communities should not be punished just because the hallways are wide and the washrooms are large.

The EPSB is also flying in the face of education itself. Children who grow up in diverse, mixed communities do better academically and in life. Pushing children to the 'burbs or to more homogenous neighbourhoods may be more convenient for the EPSB but not for these kids or their families.

What exactly are going to be done with all these large, empty buildings anyways? Why not keep classes going, while utilizing all that extra space for other community-building resources like social organizations, daycare, or adult education classes? It makes no sense to me - the schools are too big and there are not enough students, so let's close them so they can sit empty. Now that is a total waste of space.

Schools are valuable and central to a community. They should not be closed. The EPSB should care more about children and communities than their arbitrary measurements and figures. It should stop commodifying education and community. Schools are not corporations and the bottom line of dollars and cents does not apply in the same way.

If Edmonton is to have a vital and vibrant inner city (rather than just acting as a dumping ground for the city's social problems) community schools have to stay. There is no other choice.

No comments: