Thoughts Shared on Rural Education
Prince George, B.C. – Dozens of people turned out for last night’s open house on rural education at Van Bien Training and Development Centre.
Many more joined via videoconferencing from Mackenzie, Valemount and McBride as part of the provincial government’s tour hosted by Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Education Linda Larsen and Ministry of Education staff.
One of the groups with some serious concerns is the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George.
“Oh, for sure. The population of young people is going down and the schools are closing,” said vice-chair Terry Burgess, the area ‘G’ director who resides in Bear Lake. “But schools hold the rural areas together, they hold communities together.”
He said students there are forced to bus to Prince George – a combined two hours a day – and says it’s driving the few people they have, out of the area.
“There’s no schools so people don’t settle here. It’s a Catch 22 – you can’t have a great big school open if you don’t have the students.”
In their submission, the regional district also pressed for the best available technology for accessing the internet and for rural school training for educators so they are better prepared to deal with small population, multi-age classroom environments.
Larsen says the tour has heard from all corners of the province and noted some common themes have surfaced.
“One’s recruitment of teachers and staff because when you go to an area like that you not only have a transportation issue but a housing issue as well,” she said. “And the level of education, what is that magic number where you all of a sudden say to yourself ok, my kids are not getting a good enough education, there’ s not enough things offered for them so how can we keep them here and give them a better education.”
For those who missed last night’s meeting you can still share your input by clicking here.
Larsen will present her white paper on the subject prior the writ being dropped in April. The goal is to help develop a rural education strategy by this summer.
Richard Giroday, president of the Prince George and District Teachers’ Association called funding “the critical part of what this is all about.”
“One of the things they (BC Liberals) did was they went to student-based funding quite a few years back and that made a big difference to these rural communities. The funding change was very difficult for communities where populations were getting smaller and smaller.”