Why don't parents just say no?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Ottawa School Closures : One Thread

I am a grade eleven student at Lisgar Collegiate Institute. I am involved in both my home and school communities. This involvement has brought the issue of school closures to my attention (there is a policy that keeps the schools from giving us information because they have in the past been accused of distorting the student's impression of the situation - think of the teacher strike last year). It seems to me that this is a situation of an all powerful giant trying to squish the local dwarfs into submission. But the giant doesn't realize that there is power in numbers...

It has come to my attention that some school boards have decided to flat out say no to school closures (Hamilton-Wentworth being the most recent). The impact that the collective of school boards unanimously saying no could leave on the government might actually make them reconsider their impossible proposition.

My mother is on a Community Working Group. It is through her that I have been getting all my information regarding this situation. The CWG's have been told that they are allowed to work primarily with raw numbers. They are supposed to put their considerations of the psychological impact that closing schools might have on students to the side (it doesn't hold nearly as much weight in their discussions). On top of this, the numbers that they are working with are not as accurate as they should be. The Average Daily Enrolment is based, as the name suggests, on the average number of students in the school on any given day. This means that a cold or flu outbreak in winter would pull down the average. However, when spring and summer roll around and there is less sickness (meaning the school is closer to full) the enrolment is higher than the average. If you also take into consideration where the students whose schools have been closed will have to go, you're left with a situation that has a large number of students stuck in portables (which have been proven to be unhealthy) and with fewer opportunities to use special facilities such as the gym (which would be a rather miserable lot, I assure you).

I personally have been told that I'm lucky because my school is overcrowded which means that the chances are slim that the school will be targeted for closure. (As a side note, the overcrowding means that we have one of the longest school days in Ottawa - from 8AM to 3:40PM with less than one hour for lunch - to accommodate the extra students as well as two portables with used desks from an elementary school that most high school students can't fit into). So, even if I am lucky because my school isn't directly targeted, the outcome of school closures will likely mean an even more unreasonable length of day and more portables with tiny desks.

However, if we do deal only with numbers, the concept of filling schools to 100% capacity is still unreasonable and silly. As I have explained earlier, the ADE is based on an average, not real day to day numbers. You also have to take into consideration the fact that the Baby Boom generation has had children producing a second boom known to statisticians as the Baby Boom Echo. The peak year of birth for this demographic group occurred in the year of 1990. This means that there is a whole group of grade 2 students coming up the pipe which will cause a serious difficulty whenever they reach a critical grade (like grades 7 and 9). There will not be enough room to accommodate this group of people who are now eight years old based on current available spaces. What happens then, when the schools are closed? Will we suddenly have another government tell us that we have to spend millions of dollars to build schools to replace the ones that we have hastily closed?

In my opinion, the task that the government has set forth for these small groups of concerned parents and community volunteers is unreasonable. The only possible decision that they can come to and submit to the school boards for review with clear consciences is one for no school closures. However, the CWG's, to use my earlier analogy, are only dwarfs compared to the giant of a government. They need the support and input of parents to make the government understand that closing schools is not a possibility in a growing population base. So, to conclude, since the government sets the policy, the government should take responsibility for what they want done, not the local school boards. Let's see if they can do it with clear consciences.

-- Anonymous, October 25, 1998

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