Ontario is facing an alarming trend of rural school closures. OFA is concerned about the impact school closures have on our children, our families and our communities. Schools provide so much more than a place for learning – they are home to community social events, local sports, and service and community groups.
When you close a rural school, you close off the opportunities for the entire community. Rural communities suffer when youth and families leave to go after opportunities in urban areas. Rural schools are central to the health and well-being of communities, and they are a vital social infrastructure that supports rural economic development.
OFA believes more broad consideration should be given to the effect of possible school closures, giving due consideration to the potential impact on the students, as well as on the entire community.
Several items should be considered prior to the closure of a rural school. While School boards may save money by closing a school, the costs to the rural people are increased by such decisions, not to mention the potential impact on the education of our children.
Some of the key considerations before closing any school should include:
- How long will students spend on a bus to their new school? This could have implications on the students’ health, academic performance, and overall development. The student may be too tired to concentrate on his or her lessons because of having to catch the bus so early. Should seven-year-olds have to commute? In addition, some students will be required to quit after-school teams and activities because of the long commute.
- Impact on local businesses. Local businesses also suffer from having students removed from the community. The students will not be in the community to spend their money, nor will they be available for after-school employment, because of the long commute.
- Impact on the community. The community often loses its recreation hall and community center with the closing of a school. It may be required to construct a new community meeting place and resource center, at great expense, when the local school is no longer available.
OFA believes the government should recognize that, even though the school board may not be deemed ‘small, rural or remote’ according to the Provincial Government’s funding formula, many have small, rural schools within their board. Rural schools have unique needs that must be considered, such as smaller classroom sizes and a higher per-pupil cost for goods and services.