Neighbourhood Schools and Healthy Communities

There was a lot of debate and deliberation prior to our recent decision to amalgamate Sechelt and Kinnikinick elementary schools, while leaving Davis Bay open. A lot of people have asked why I voted as I did, particularly around why I support keeping Davis Bay open. I believe it’s your right to know where your elected officials stand and why. So, let me explain…

There were a lot of budget factors involved and a lot of debate around the “big” school concept vs. the “small” school concept.

There was a bigger picture piece to the decision, though, a piece that was largely overlooked due to the overwhelming facts and figures we grappled with in making this decision. This piece played a large part in my decision to vote in favour of a neighbourhood school in Davis Bay: the value of public space as a hub in a healthy community.

It’s not a coincidence that the Sunshine Coast is such a great place to live and raise our families. It’s not a coincidence that we smile at each other and wave at strangers walking down the street. It’s not a coincidence that people are generally respectful and helpful.

The Sunshine Coast is such an extraordinary place because of our sense of community. It’s not because we’re a small town (or a series of them!). There are plenty of small towns across BC that you wouldn’t get waved at as a stranger walking down the street. In fact there are plenty of small towns where you wouldn’t want to be a stranger walking down the street, definitely not after dark. And there are plenty of small towns where kids recreational opportunities seem to consist of either drugs and/or vandalism.

It’s not being small that makes us care about each other. It’s our sense of community. Coasters are proud and fiercely Coasters. Just watch a Coaster when someone from Powell River declares that they are from the Sunshine Coast–or, even worse, the “Upper” Sunshine Coast. We all know the Upper Sunshine Coast ends at Earl’s Cove (but where does it begin? There’s a potential debate. I say above RC, which doesn’t really make sense geographically, but feels right. Maybe Sechelt and area is the Central Sunshine Coast, and everything past there is the Upper Sunshine Coast. But Egmont doesn’t like to be lumped in with Pender Harbour. Upper North Eastern Sunshine Coast?)

People here are proud to say they’re from the Sunshine Coast, but we also love our smaller communities. In Langdale for instance, we are quite proud to be Not Gibsons. It’s nothing personal, Gibsons. We love you-for a visit-but frankly your fancy street lights and smooth-talking ways make us a little uncomfortable. There, I said it. Now let’s move forward.

The Sunshine Coast is a community of communities. People are nice here and we like it like that. Even our hoodlums are sort of cute in their attempts to rebel. I catch them all the time holding doors for the elderly and saying “thank you” when they think no one is watching.

So, how does this happen? It happens when a community values neighbourhoods and public spaces. One sign of an evolved society is having public spaces to congregate in with your neighbours. Having schools and parks in neighbourhoods equals healthier communities. It’s a concept society as a whole is moving away from, and most of us agree it’s not resulting in a more civil or friendly place. Do we want to live in a place where we don’t know our neighbours? Most of us transplants moved here to get away from that.

In many of our communities the schools are the hearts of the communities, the glue that holds us together, the difference between a community and sprawl. Maybe a community doesn’t turn into Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome overnight without its heart, but there will be a slow erosion of the community values we hold dear.

Some say that it isn’t a School District’s responsibility to help create a respectful and civil greater community. I wholeheartedly disagree. I believe that should be the main goal of a School District. All the other goals are just steps towards this.

I’m not saying we need to keep schools open at all costs, but the health of the overall community needs to be a factor in the decision. And that’s why I feel strongly about neighbourhood schools. It’s not nostalgia. It’s not emotional. It’s not political.

It’s about community.

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3 Comments

Filed under Sunshine Coast Board of Education, Sunshine Coast News and Politics

3 responses to “Neighbourhood Schools and Healthy Communities

  1. parent2

    What about Sechelt then?

  2. Jason Scott

    Good question. I realize that moving the k-7 kids from SES is akin to closing it, but I (I’m only speaking for myself) supported this choice for a few reasons.

    It might sound like doublespeak, but we decided to move those kids in order to pursue an exciting Neighbourhood of Learning for that site, in the heart of Sechelt.

    Also there is a time when a school population becomes too small. There is no magic number, but most parents of SES seemed to feel that the numbers no longer supported an optimal environment for their kids. Many would have preferred not to move, but were still in favour of amalgamation.

    Finally, in terms of the overall community consideration, SES is only one part of a large hub in Sechelt, and will still be used by the community. An important part for sure, but the sense of community surrounding it will persevere.

  3. Coaster

    Great piece. Very funny and so true!

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