HEDLEY – Despite strong community opposition, the Okanagan Similkameen Board of Education in School District No. 53 decided this week to close Hedley Elementary School effective June 2008.
“The loss to this community will be immeasurable. For students’ education – the losses are easier to measure and we presented that information to the trustees,” says CUPE 523 president Zoe Magnus.
“We thank the two trustees – Myrna Coates and Debbie Marten – who voted against the closure. These trustees expressed a desire that the community be given two more years to show that they would support the Hedley school. They recognize, as many do, that once we lose a school, it is very difficult to get those resources back into the community,” says Magnus.
Magnus is critical of the Board’s changing rationale for closing the school. “At first they claimed that the school should close for educational reasons. But when CUPE and others presented information, including a solid critique of their testing data, trustees claimed financial reasons. And frankly the financial grounds are questionable, since the board did not deal with the loss of provincial funds, or new costs related to maintaining a building or building or moving it to another location,” says Magnus.
As part of the consultation process, Magnus and CUPE 523 sub-local president George Bush, representing staff in the district, presented a substantial CUPE brief with research on the benefits of small classrooms and schools on children’s educational experience, the negative impacts of long bus rides and the folly of relying on unreliable testing data.
Hedley Elementary School is a multi-grade K-4 school, with one teacher, one teaching assistant and twelve students. The school serves the 500-person community of Hedley.
CUPE’s presentation and more information are available at www.cupe.bc.ca