The following is an extract from an article that I wrote February 2009 when the New Brunswick Department of Education was pondering the closure of inner city schools. Well DEC is at it again when it comes to a destroying a community hub in the the South End, the Saint John the Baptist / King Edward School. I believe the message from several years ago is worth repeating.
“Schools act as magnets in attracting young families and children that Rejuvenate, Revitalize and Renew city neighbourhoods.-” Harold Phalen, educator
Mr. Phalen’s comment is supported by more than 45 years of holding numerous positions in the field of education, but does it pass the consensus test?
Let’s start with the following excerpt from the provincial education plan, When Kids Come First: “What is a Community School? A Community School fosters relationships that transform a traditional school into a centre of opportunity for children, youth, families and communities. When a community school is established, parents, business and community members work in partnership with educators to support schools as centres of learning for their communities by leveraging the physical, intellectual and cultural resources in the community around them. A community school would act to strengthen the sense of community by serving as a hub of community activity and development.“
Mr. Phalen and the province of New Brunswick seem to share the same conclusion and values. Read on”¦
* N.B. news release Dec. 10, 2007 QUISPAMSIS (CNB) – As part of the When Kids Come First education plan, an additional 13 anglophone sector schools have been designated community schools, Education Minister Kelly Lamrock announced today. A community school encourages the community to become more active in the life of a school and in assisting kids to learn. It also helps kids to develop a sense of belonging and commitment to their community.
“Engaging communities and partners in improving schools and academic achievement is essential to the success of building the best education system in the country,” Lamrock said. “Community groups, businesses, schools, teachers and parents have all recognized the importance each can play in providing hands- on learning experiences for children in their own community.“
Community schools use community resources such as volunteer groups, parents, public services and recreational and cultural opportunities to turn a school into a centre of opportunity for children, youth, families and communities before, during and after school hours.”
Several years ago the U.S. Department of Education found when comparing small schools with larger schools the larger schools had more absenteeism, more violent crime, more vandalism, more theft and larceny, more physical fights or attacks, more robberies and more weapons incidents.
In recognizing the overall advantages of small local schools, Florida, Maryland and Vermont have gone so far as to put in place legislation to maintain and protect them. The Vermont Department of Education found that small schools in Vermont are worth “the investment because of the value they add to student learning and community cohesion.”
In respect to this column, the part of the iceberg that sticks out of water reflects dollar savings to the Department of Education, however the part of the iceberg beneath the water – the part you don’t see – is the local social disruptive cost, student disruption and the additional real dollar cost passed on to many parents who are ill-equipped to absorb these costs. More often than not closing community or inner city schools provide short-term dollar saving for the Department of Education, however over the long-term government and society had brace themselves for the greater financial and social cost to the community and society.