Thinking outside the schoolhouse

Good times may be just around the corner for Ashcroft and Cache Creek, but don't expect the schools to fill up to their former capacity.

It’s been a promising summer for Ashcroft and Cache Creek, as industry starts to pick up: the Ashcroft Terminal in Ashcroft and exploration of the old Maggie Mines site north of Cache Creek.

Solid industry will be what eventually gives the local economies a boost as others look to the confidence shown by those companies who choose to invest in our areas.

We can only hope that confidence continues to grow.

Declining population over the years has left nothing but skin and bones of our towns. Each time we have to cut somewhere else, we think to ourselves that there’s nothing left to cut. We quickly find out that that’s not the case, as we’re asked to cut more.

The school board relies on student population: no students equals no schools.

It is unfortunate that comunities such as Spences Bridge and Big Bar have lost their schools in the past few years. When you don’t have much left, schools become a central point, a sign that not all is lost, and the focus of dreams for the future.

Gold Trail has come up with an alternative to leaving communities without their schools. It’s not a great plan, but it’s as good as it’s going to get while enrolment continues to drop. In a perfect world, the province would provide money to build new schools in each of our communities that would be custom built for rural communities with low numbers in each grade from K-12.

As it is, although the staff proposes school closures, they are not leaving the communities without schools.

Yes, it’s a compromise, but it’s better than losing the school entirely – which would be the alternative.

One day, populations in our communities will level off. With industry’s help, they may even grow again, but it’s not likely that we will have a student population large enough to fill the halls and classrooms of our schools to capacity. Rural populations everywhere have been declining for decades.

Perhaps it’s time to accept that we need to look at a different way of doing things.

Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal

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