In case you were not aware, in June the Lakeview area lost one of its elementary schools. Athabasca School closed this past June, dispersing the leftover students to Lakeview and Argyle schools. Athabasca, a school with a low population was one of several other schools that have closed under the Regina Public School Board’s “ten year renewal program.” Unfortunately, the program is not properly titled. Rather, it should be known as the “ten year school closure program.”
Schools in Regina are being closed on a yearly basis. And there are no new schools being built. The student projections for the end of the renewal plan are alarming. It is projected that over thirteen elementary schools in Regina will exceed 400 kids by 2018. The highest projected population is Hawrylak School, where it is estimated some 923 students will be attending school by the year 2018. Two more schools are cited for closure at the end of this school year, and who knows how many more are coming after that.
Lakeview and other neighbourhoods are full of young children that will be attending elementary school in the next few years. Supposedly, our city is growing and yet for some reason schools are closing. Instead of building additional schools to support a growing population, kids are being crammed into schools that are already full, and temporary classrooms (like the trailers you see on construction sites) are being slapped onto the backs of schools as a weak attempt to solve the problem.
As a city, Regina seems to be behind in the times when it comes to debates on school closures. Larger cities such as Edmonton have put a moratorium on school closures for the next few years in order to “explore a number of programs to support schools rather then close them”. In Vancouver, “specialty programs have been introduced in order to give struggling schools the chance to survive.” There has been loads of research done has to show the benefits of multiple small schools rather then few large schools. So then why is Regina closing the doors of so many small, community schools?
One of the reasons probably has to do with finances. Schools are expensive. Buildings need to be maintained, and that costs money. It is easy to close a school when one looks at all of the money that will be saved. The only thing that seems to be overlooked is what is best for the kids. A local group called RealRenewal has some great ideas on how to shape the future of education in Regina. They envision small schools that kids can walk and bike to. They see elementary schools as a hub for local community activities, such as adult education and daycare. Imagine having schools that aren’t just schools, but community centers that get used after school hours. Communities would be brought together! Neighbours would get to know each other! The benefits would be enormous.
A city’s education system is its most important service. This is why such a large portion of our taxes is allocated to the school boards. Schools are more important then garbage removal. Schools are more important then street sweeping. Schools are even, dare I say it, more important then building a new stadium for our beloved roughriders. The school board should be looking out for what is best for our community, not what is best for their accounting ledgers.
If you wish to express your concern about the future of Regina’s public schools, feel free email our ward’s school Board Trustee, Dale West.
The above views expressed are those of the authour and not necessarily those of the Lakeview Community Association.