Editorial Comment Concerning School Closures

Pipestone Flyer

    As some of you are most likely aware, our school division has recently faced some adversity, much of which has been attributed to a—now recovering—decline in enrollment. As a measure to maintain equitable services for students, as well as to consolidate some of the spending within the district, the former Board of Trustees developed a Strategic Facilities Plan to guide their decision making—one that made possible several school closures. 

    Several schools were deemed as possible closure sites. While many of us agree that not all schools can stay open indefinitely, and that schools need to be evaluated from time to time for viability, many people within the district are becoming disillusioned with the (lack of) process that the school board is allowing the other stakeholders in regard to school closures. 

    Among these concerns has been the process afforded parents and other involved members in any discussion surrounding school closures. In fact, the process that has been presented as the only option to the public during the Lakedell and Pipestone school closure, discussions has been one that doesn’t actually allow for any discourse at all. Yes, there have been consultations, but never is a conversation allowed to occur. Any attendees are only afforded the right to ask questions to be answered, in writing, at a later date. Even the trustees were expected to refrain from answering questions and to simply record questions for compilation and answering later.  This process has done little to let a concerned public know they are being heard. If fact, it often feels as though the opposite is being done, with any opportunity for meaningful discourse being replaced by a document that is long on pages and rhetoric, but short on any meaningful answers. 

    Another primary concern is in the lack of evidence that these closures (as well as the closure of Rosebrier School, which happened in 2012) will have any positive impact on student learning in the district. Part of WRPS’s self-stated priorities is to engage in data-driven decision-making— no doubt a worthwhile cause. That said, there is very little (if any) data being gathered as to the effects of previous closures, either on the negative or positive side of the issue. A constant refrain from the board of trustees is that closures are necessary to achieve equity of learning across the division. If such is the case, in order to follow their own directive to make data based decisions, the board should be able to show clearly the benefits of previous closures, and—at the very least—be able to show that those closures haven’t been detrimental to effected students. So far, no data regarding the benefit or detriment of previous closures has been made public, and there seems to be no plan in place to obtain any.  

    There seems to be little desire to value and utilize the opinions of stakeholders and without any sort of formal evaluation in place regarding school closures we fear this board will continue down a detrimental and irreversible path—a path that is not in the best interest of ALL the children in WRPS.  The deadline is looming for Pipestone and Lakedell as the vote is May 27th for closure with multiple closures continuing in subsequent years.  We would like to see a formal evaluation process regarding whether school closures in WRPS have made a positive or negative impact as well as a moratorium on future closures until the evaluation process is in place and proven sound.  We look forward to working with our trustees: we WANT to work with them and we recognize the magnitude of the decisions they have to make–we simply want them to listen to the voices of the constituents that elected them and to make data driven decisions as tasked to them as school board trustees.

Sincerely,

Kelsy Bradford

Parents for Gwynne School