EDITORIAL: Curtain closes but door opens

School closure could open door of opportunity for community

Ashton Creek Elementary students and parents may have lost a battle, but it doesn’t mean they’ve lost the war.

Despite nearly 160 signatures on a petition, parents and students learned this week that the school will be closed at the end of the year by the North Okanagan-Shuswap school district due to declining enrolment.

There are currently 33 students in two, four-grade split classes at Ashton Creek, with trustees concerned those numbers would decrease further next year.

Parents and students are rightfully upset with the news, especially in such a small community where the school is often the hub of activity.

There are concerns about a lack of one-on-one time with teachers, and about longer bus rides now for the kids.

So while Ashton Creek residents get over the shock, they should take heed that the school district has closed three other elementary schools since 2000, schools that were equally important to their community and residents, and their students moved on to other schools.

The school district did everything to make sure the transition for students was smooth, and they’ll do it in this case as well.

The three schools – two in Salmon Arm, one in Malakwa – are now being used by the communities as activity centres, alternate schools, a lending library and even a post office branch.

In other words, the community rallied and put the school to good use, rather than see it sit vacant and collecting dust and rust.

Working with the school district or other groups could help Ashton Creek residents find another use for the school, one that benefits all and has the building again being the hub of the community.