Changing demographics are front and centre in the North Okanagan once again.
The possible closure of Ashton Creek Elementary School Aug. 1 is a direct indication of an aging population and a low birthrate. It also highlights that while the region was largely rural decades ago, it is now increasingly urban.
From a financial perspective, closing the school makes sense as enrolment has dropped from 90 to 33 since 2006 while labour and utility costs have climbed. Students in four-grade split classes may also not have access to a variety of programs that encourage educational and personal development.
But on the other hand, small, rural schools provide a setting where everyone knows everyone and students learn to co-operate with others no matter their age. In some cases, the older kids take the younger ones under their wing, developing skills that will carry them through life.
Schools are critical in any community, but particularly in the smaller ones, where they serve as a focal point for social events. The presence of a school also encourages families to stay or move in, bolstering the economy.
The North Okanagan-Shuswap School District will be initiating a public consultation process leading up to a decision on closure in April.
We would encourage everyone in Ashton Creek and Kingfisher — which is also served by the school — to be an active participant and let the district know your views.
It’s only by being informed that trustees can hopefully make a decision that is right for both the students and the community.