Discussion 4: Share your rural education story



Rural education is more than just buildings and grades. An education that addresses the individual needs of a student and prepares them for life and career upon graduation will have positive societal impacts and benefits to the local community as a whole.

 

Are there stories that you would like to share related to rural education or a particular rural school in British Columbia?

 

53 responses to “Discussion 4: Share your rural education story

  1. Meghan

    Our community school, Trout Creek School, was slated for closure. As a community group, we spent may hundreds of hours researching different models, best practices, economic viability and other avenues of savings for the school board. Throughout the process, we maintained focus on positive, solution-oriented ideas that are best suited for the chidren, their well-being and the community as a whole. “there are communities without schools, but there are no schools without communities”. The integration of schools and overall wellness of citizens and our communities is a link that that is highly important and worth funding. We are grateful for the implementation of the Rural Education Enhancement Funding and the recognition of the importance of smaller schools in their communities.

  2. Sheri

    Rural schools provide amazing educational, recreational and social services in spite of their unique challenges because of dedicated staff. However they could do so much more with increased funding not only based on enrollment, improved infrastructure, modern, comfortable and safe buildings, avenues to attract and retain staff, improved transportation options, improved recreation structures, increased training for multi-aged classes, increased staffing, increased course offerings, etc.

  3. Rick

    A little over two years ago, my wife and I decided to move with our two young children away from the large city where we grew up. This was a major decision for us, and one that we did not make lightly. We aimed to move to a smaller city, one where we could raise our children with a sense of community, and where we could foster our family’s love for and connection with the Earth.

    After extensive research, we settled on Penticton as a city that we felt embodied these attributes. We looked at homes all over town, and got to know the school system in order to plan where our children could go, touring several elementary schools in the process. Once we visited West Bench Elementary, we knew that we had found our place, and we were so impressed with the warm feeling of this school that when a house across the street came for sale, we made the uncharacteristic decision to purchase this home sight unseen.

    Since our children have been attending WBE, our children’s educational experience has exceeded even our highest hopes. The feeling that these children gain of being a valued, contributing member of their school community is a priceless gift that this school passes on to the next generation. Weekly hikes in the beautiful natural surroundings provide a groundedness and sense of place that feeds a love and respect for nature.

  4. Glenn

    Our district has five (5) schools of less fewer than 100 students. Four of these are located in small communities in varying distances of between 10 km and 70 km to the closest urban centre. The two primary challenges which arise from an educational perspective are:
    • providing a “full service” educational program including library, learning resource, counselling and itinerant services such as speech language pathology to smaller sites. It is not unusual to have only a half or one full day per week for these important services at a rural location.
    • Determining the impact of multi-age classes of on educational quality at these smaller sites. Depending on the configuration of the school, it is not unusual to have three or four grades in one classroom. While some schools have taken positive steps to make a multi-age setting a part of their school culture, measuring the positive or negative impact of this setting is a major issue, especially as it requires tracking student cohorts over an extended time frame (eg. through graduation).
    • For students leaving elementary schools there are often long bus rides to secondary school ‘may’ impact their academic success and retention rates

    Related public comments from Community Engagement sessions (October/November 2016):
    • Equitable stands out so if Literacy and numeracy is a need in the district why do only 5 schools have support for numeracy helping teachers?
    • Belief there is an imbalance between schools
    • Regional representation on the board has caused some voting scenarios where the self-interest in areas was determining voting more than what is best for the district as a whole.
    • Moved here because of high school, will move if the high school goes away.
    • Economy impacted as students here/leave
    • Communities outside of feel that they are on the fringe
    • We don’t’ have AP or IB.. the needs of the high end aren’t met. Equitable access means that students have access to advanced courses.
    • Equitable access means that if we reduce capacity in the school that students will need to move to if there is no room.
    • Priority needs to be programs and services first and not sacrifice for buildings.
    • We need to find the balance point between programs. We can’t do everything well everywhere.
    • in the short term, there is concern about the viability of the program in the high school.
    • We don’t want to decrease our capacity and have to send students to
    • There HAS to be high school in . If amalgamation must go ahead there has to be a clear and firm commitment to keeping high school viable in if the population increases to the point that we need a new school.
    • Is it possible to take a closer look at the reasoning behind some of the cross-boundary requests?

  5. Sarah

    I would like to make the point that all children and families in B.C. should have access to quality education even if we live in a rural area. Rural school funding should not only be based on enrollment, but instead should guarantee a certain standard of education. In our rural school on Cortes Island we have classroom teachers teaching 3 grades, which means that the children have the same teacher for 3 years. We have no music, art, phys. ed. or French language teachers. It is unfair to our children that when they reach high school, many of them are not be able to integrate into music and sports activities because they have not developed foundational skills in elementary school.
    I would also like to comment on the rural boarding allowance that is currently available for students in remote areas of our School District (72) so that they can attend high school. It is my understanding that School districts have discretion around how the boarding allowance is allocated, and I would like to see a more fair and standardized approach around the province. First of all, the monthly amount of this boarding allowance has stayed at $350.00 per month for over 20 years and needs to be increased to match the cost of living. My other concern is that up until 2003, students from our rural community (Cortes Island) could access high school education anywhere in B.C. and qualify for the boarding allowance, provided that they were in fact boarding away from their parents and the primary family residence was still on Cortes Island. After 2003, the policy has changed so that students will only qualify for the boarding allowance if they stay within the same district and attend school in Campbell River.
    This has resulted in MUCH financial hardship for families, as often the only safe/suitable option for boarding our children (who are as young as 14 when they leave for high school) is with extended family or friends, who may live outside our school district. The result is that families have to pay out of pocket for all boarding expenses. Many families cannot handle the added financial burden and end up moving away from the community when their eldest child reaches high school age. Which, needless to say, has an impact on our elementary school enrollment because younger siblings move away also. This affects the overall funding for our school. It also impacts the integrity of our community as families move away and often don’t come back.
    Our elementary school has several empty classrooms, with Kindergarten through grade 10 being taught by just 3 classroom teachers! I would love to see our school utilized to it’s full potential, and I would love to encourage young families as well as professional teachers to move to our community. We need to value our children and invest in our rural schools!

  6. Brenda

    These schools are a lifeline and become extended family in small rural communities.

    I lead the charge to organize the plea to save our school last spring
    We have proven the need over and over again
    Kids should ALL go to school in their hometown!
    Education is the future
    Funding rural schools is a Priority !!!!
    Closing schools can no longer be used as a tactic to balance the books-
    These children teachers staff parents and communities deserve to be shown respect!
    Our kids matter !
    Fund Rural Schools- keep schools open
    SOS #osoyoosstrong

  7. Anita

    Gives students a unique perspective on wildlife and nature because of it’s location.
    Small communities have limited services. A lot of the services that do exist in rural communities are because of volunteers. students develop first hand knowledge about social responsibility and community involvement as well as the correlation between volunteerism and community services.

  8. Dianne

    Working in a rural school and living in a rural community is very different than working and living in a larger centre. In a larger place you often don’t live close to the school that you work in and don’t shop in the local grocery store, etc. In a rural area, we all shop at the same stores so you are constantly ‘running into’ parents, students and former students. Everybody knows you, where you live and what you do… sometimes they know things before you do. This creates a wonderful feeling of community because you do know everyone; but, it also demands that you live in a ‘fishbowl’ which can feel somewhat invasive. For me, the positives outweigh the negatives. I know my students and their families. I have often taught their older siblings or worked with one of their parents on a committee. We are able, often, to be more creative when providing for a particular student’s needs or specific resource because we know exactly who to go to for that specific thing. The tragedy is often in lack of funds for sports teams to travel to games; and, for students to experience some of the cultural events (theatre for example) that they would have access to in a larger centre.

  9. Chris

    I live on the Westbench in Penticton, B.C. My children attended, and I was a teacher on call at the Elementary School here. My husband and I moved here from the coast, and brought with us two well-paying jobs. We never would have bought a home in a community without a school. Westbench school allowed us to build a support network for our family that was sorely needed as new members to a community where we knew no one. We moved from the coast to escape the traffic and commuting, so we could spend more time with our children. Our children grew up playing outside with the neighbourhood kids, where they became fit and happy, nourished by the sun and exercise. They played nightgames like hide and seek for hours on summer nights, and I never had to fear for their safety because there were huge grassy areas without fences for them to play in. This is why we moved here. The school was a family. Now that fewer people are going to church, the school is sometimes the only place that families can meet to share stories, to support one another when times are difficult, to help one another, to learn from one another’s social behaviour. We stayed for 20 years in a home we had planned to stay in for five years, and that is because of the school. Schools decrease transiency because of the relationships that happen there. Not knowing a soul here, when my first child started kindergarten, I started a book club to make new friends. I invited moms of the other children. That was almost 18 years ago, and these people are my people. We have been through so much together, helping one another through every sorrow, and cheering through every happiness. Without the school, this would not have happened. Finally, my children received an excellent education in a small school where they knew every single other child. This is immeasurable. That’s the thing about rural schools- how do you measure the ability to make a child feel that they have a second home with 180 siblings? The benefits are so much more important than a graduation certificate. This school was everything we hoped to find when we moved from Vancouver, which we loved. People in rural areas deserve this option. Schools aren’t businesses, they are sometimes the church, the hospital, the counsellor. The advantages are often intangible, but they are vital to small communities. Thank you for saving Westbench School.

  10. Katharine

    As a young family, our children were educated in a remote, rural independent school in northern BC. As a retiree, we have moved to the Outer Discovery Islands, located between Vancouver Island and the mainland. We now benefit from the presence of a remote school, part of SD 72. It is of tremendous importance to this community as I have written in answer to question 2. I think that, wherever possible, we should help make rural and remote communities viable by keeping schools open. The economics of job availability is a difficult enough equation in these areas. Closing schools is the death knell for most small communities. Small communities, small schools and the creative, self-reliant skills they foster are part and parcel of the cultural, social, and psychological fabric of Canada.
    All schools should be among our highest priorities as a nation.

  11. Lucinda

    I taught at a small school in an isolated community for 6 years. The school (people, building, programs) was an important part of the community. More than that, in a town where everyone knows each other, teachers are able to build relationships with parents and students that are impossible in larger centres where everyone departs to their own part of the community at the end of the day and never see each other outside of school.

  12. Steve

    Such potential for teacher engagement with the community. Smaller class sizes with person care for children, both in school and in the community. Teacher student interactions in the store, the hockey rink, and so on. Teachers knowing the children from a young age through graduation. Sadly marred by underfunding and poor programming – distanc education and poorly supervised correspondence courses replacing human interaction, negative consequences of hard recruiting of qualified personnel (especially management – principals and vice-principals). The development of transient staffing as schools become a stepping stone into the district. Lack of qualified replacement teachers. Poorly trained education assistants, second rate technology and Internet services, extremely high sports costs due to busing and the parallel lack of games for teams to place. Loss of access to the arts (music programs, shop programs, and so on). Teachers who do not belong to the community but commute from some other town and rush out at the end of the day to get home.

  13. Brian

    Due to the small student enrollment of my school, where I have taught for almost 28 years, I know all the students in the school and the vast majority of their parents. This has enabled me to have those personal, frank, sometimes difficult discussions with parents with a greater degree of confidence that the parents will hear me and know that speak out of understanding of the circumstances and specific needs of their child. In addition, as a result of smaller class sizes, I am able to customize the method of delivery and types of assessment to the specific learning styles and needs of each student.

  14. Heather

    Story One: Illustration of sense of community and walkability of community

    Our neighbours built a gate at the back of their orchard so that school children could walk to school. These seniors enjoy seeing the children every morning, and in fact, call them “their children”. As this group of children walks, cutting through other neighbouring orchards and backyards, they pick up more children, and only reach the road once they are within the school zone.

    Another child has made it his goal to bike to school every day of the year. Children in a neighbouring development, and on the Penticton Indian Reserve can reach their home by walking the hiking trails behind the school, and only have to cross one road.

    School closure would negate all of these positive social and health impacts.

    Story Two: Driving away the school population

    I worry that without overhauling the present system, we will not be able to save rural and community schools.
    During the 2016 school closure process, parents made plans for the inevitable closure of West Bench Elementary School. Since that time, almost all of these children/families have returned to West Bench Elementary. But, not all.
    Why? Because they don’t want to come back? No. Because they can’t.
    Example: A young family moved from the West Bench after the school closure announcement, and enrolled their daughter at a Penticton school. The child couldn’t settle at a larger school, and wanted to go back to her previous school.
    Even though we are fighting to increase enrollment at our school, she was denied entry. After persistent lobbying, she was allowed to attend West Bench School with the caveat that if just 2 more children move into the catchment area to take her spot, she will be forced to leave the school.
    I don’t blame the administrators who are following class size guidelines in making this decision. But, this and other cases like this one, which only allow for population increases at a certain time of the year, severely hamper our ability to attract and retain students at our school.
    At the same time that trustees are saying to the media that they are vindicated in predicting smaller enrollment numbers, children are being turned away from our rural school.
    At the same time, that the regional district is asking West Bench taxpayers to pay a tax increase to fund shared use of the school in order to address capacity issues, students are being turned away.
    At the same time as West Bench residents are being asked to pay $1,000s of dollars per household to bring in sewer to allow for pocket development that may fill our school, students are being turned away.

  15. Shawna

    Both of my children have suffered because of insufficient funding of rural schools. We have had several losses of schools and public school from grades 10-12 has been taken from our community. Our small town has created an independent school which my son who is in 10th grade transfered to after it became apparent that the school in the district that he was to go to was not going to work for him. He likes his school but it is not ideal a large portion of his learning is on line and not interactive and his family is left to pay about 2500 per year plus additional tutoring costs for education that he should be accessing with the tax dollars we already pay. I am not sure how we will afford post secondary education after paying for high school. It saddens me that schools are sacrificed for budget constraints and community loses a good portion of youth each day as they are transported to neighbouring communities for school.
    My son is receiving an adequate education but only because we are financially able to have him in the independent school where he receives more support. Please keep public schools well funded and community in tact when making decisions of rural education.

  16. Ann

    Our town lost two schools to closure and lost our grade 10-12 grades. The next community is close but it changes the community when a segment of the community is gone most of the day. Plus it impacts businesses. We then started a small grade 8-12 school and were at first independent now we are under SD71, a very forward thinking school district. We have a vibrant centre and hope to grow. It gives our youth an option to stay in the community and/or choose a facility different than the high school down the road. We also have students who come from other communities for various reasons. The government should be facilitating blended learning like we are doing like their 21st century education plan called for. Instead we hit numerous road blocks that make running this centre more difficult than it needs to be. There should be funding for bricks and mortar schools, distributed learning schools AND blended learning centres.

  17. Florence

    Culturally relevant education has been promoted, but teacher by-in is always helpful. OR leadership from the top-down to ensure that the education programming meets the needs of the students.

  18. Betty

    We moved to a community 27 years ago. We were so happy to have our 3 children attend a rural school and belong to a community. Our kids thrived at our school because it felt like family. Everyone looks out for each other and their children.
    It would be so sad for future students that would not experience this “family”.

  19. Eric

    I answered these questions on the survey.

  20. Linda

    In our district we have two schools that are truly “rural” in that they both exist in small villages that also have amenities – such as a Post Office, corner store, restaurant, gas station and Fire Hall. The population of the Elementary Schools in these areas is growing as young families are unable to afford to live in the larger urban areas. Neither of these villages have schooling beyond Grade 5 as bus service is provided to a Middle School 1/2 hr away.

  21. Heather

    I grew up in a small town in the BC Interior, and have spent the first 20+ years of my teaching career in 1-3 room K-9 schools. I have been involved with the BC Rural and Multigrade Teachers’ Association, and am currently involved with a K-12 Innovations Project (hosted in part by the BC Ministry of Ed) on multigrade teaching and learning as a way of personalizing education. I recently completed my Masters (UVIC) in Curriculum & Design, which provided me with the opportunity to explore multigrade teaching & learning more deeply. I am currently a principal/teacher in a small school on Northern Vancouver Island (enrollment: 35). Am interested in knowing the outcome of this initiative. Have a soft spot in my heart for rural children and their teachers.

  22. Conrad

    I’ve raised three children on Cortes Island. First we started at Linnaea School, a class 1 independent school where I was teaching, the school was on an organic farm, was a community hub and in addition to academic excellence, an arts-based approach and facilitation of personalized learning was shut down because the funding per student received by the school was far less than what public school students received and with no funding at all to the facility. When the school closed I saw many families leave Cortes Island to seek a life elsewhere and although enrollment did go up at the public school in many ways the heart went out of the community and the demographic became flatter with less diversity and fewer professionals living on the Island. What was a draw to our community was cut because of an unbalanced funding scenario and the whole island has suffered as a result.
    From there, as a teacher, I began to work online for another independent school and home schooled my kids. I was very fortunate to be able to work from home and keep my kids with me and they have thrived in the 14 years that we’ve lived on this island. They are they type of kid, who just shines and makes people take notice when in other communities or group environments where we now live on Vancouver Island. They know themselves, they are assured in their abilities and unafraid to take on new challenges, they are not limited by attitudes of their peers and are doing excellent by all measures in high school. Thank goodness that distributed learning alternatives exist, thank goodness that even though the pay is less for teachers there are so many dedicated professionals who choose to support families and children by working within the alternative systems. My three kids are all special needs and it is largely due to the work of those who believe in children and the future and not just in government mandates regarding education that they thrive as they do today.

  23. Ashley

    I’m not sure why these discussion questions are focusing on how schools benefit communities rather than the greater issue of BC students’ rights to a quality education, regardless of where they live. Of course rural schools are great because they often act as the central meeting point and activities center for those of us who live in small communities. More importantly, schools are essential to the economic well being and health of communities, and our children have the right to a decent education.

    A community cannot thrive without schools because a community cannot thrive without young families. It is the young people who keep a community functioning. Our fire fighters (who in rural areas are mostly volunteers), our paramedics (who in rural areas are vastly underpaid), our builders, farmers, and fishers are mostly young adults. Young people work and pay taxes to support everyone else, yet young people in this province are struggling everywhere. We struggle with an unaffordable housing crisis, now a major issue even in rural places. We struggle with low wages and poor career prospects (except in toxic and environmentally devastating industries). And now we have to struggle to provide our children with quality educations because schools are being shut down or are chronically underfunded. Often schools in rural areas are amalgamated or shut down to the point that families are forced to relocate in order to ensure their children are able to attend school at all.

    In our community on Cortes Island, we face having to uproot our entire family for, at least, three years because the education system is so underfunded that we don’t have a high school for our students. It is outrageous and almost a complete deterrent to living here. The lack of a high school in our community has forced many families to leave and has had a negative impact on our community as a whole. And it’s not as if we’re a blink of the eye town; we have a population of over 1000 people.

    The underfunding of rural education is not right and it is detrimental to the well being of communities. Young families should not have to move from their communities in order to ensure their children can receive an education. This situation is a violation of our children’s rights.

  24. Ginny

    My elementary years were spent in a small rural school and my husband and I moved back to the area so our children could have the privilege of attending that same school. There is a ‘family’ feel about a small school , people look out for each other. The staff know each child and their idiosyncrasies. Often there is lots of parent participation and support. For some students the individual attention they receive in a small setting can be a game changer. In many communities students will have to bus into the larger community for the higher grades and school sports activities. There are challenges that come with that such as earlier start and end times to the day, after school activities etc. However I believe in the end with the challenges that face rural children they build resiliency and self-reliance.

  25. Carol

    My children both attended rural schools and while most of their experience was good and most years they had committed & enthusiastic teachers, some years were a bit of a bust. In a small school, if you encounter a situation of a mismatch between a student and a teacher, there simply may be no other option but to stick out the year, or homeschool. Both my children suffered from at least one year with a disengaged teacher, and they made limited academic progress as a result. Specialized supports were also limited (my son needed speech therapy) He finally received a minimal amount of assistance shared with another student. Speech Therapy was simply not available in the community except through the school, and the intervention came a bit to late to be completely effective.

  26. Sally

    My husband and I live in a community that is scattered over a number of islands and is served by a one room school. We do not have children of school age but have provided a few presentations and workshops to the students (travel, writing a book, alternative dispute resolution), as have many other adults in the community. We are always very impressed with the interest, participation and creativity of the students. There is a wide range of ages and they all work together. It is a lot of fun and very rewarding to be able to spend time with these kids. Over the years we have seen many of them grow into remarkable young people. The off-grid lifestyle is a healthy one and the benefits far outweigh any perceived negatives. I just wish we had given our children the opportunity to attend such a school.

  27. June

    In the Vanderhoof high school, students are often known well in the community – even if by reputation. One student, who stood out because of athletic achievements, academic excellence and work ethic went on to study math at UNBC. However, what set him apart for those of us who were aware, he was also the best friend of another student who lived with cerebral palsy. When at UNBC, the student was contacted to help recruit project administrators to work on projects in Northern Health. He ended up volunteering for one of the roles. Typical of many students, especially high achievers, he had many options available to him, but was unclear on what he wanted to do. Through the exposure he had on various projects in Northern Health, he determined he wanted to pursue becoming a medical doctor. He is now completing his residency and hopes to pursue a specialty. He may have gotten to the same place some other way, but rural education in rural schools in BC provide an inherent network for students among community members who look for opportunities for students they know to advance and succeed.

  28. June

    Unanticipated linkages of schools in communities relates to the faith community. In our community, our church started by meeting in a local elementary school. Over time, the church moved into its own facility that it built. That same church was a key impetus for starting up NeighborLink – an organization providing practical helps in the community (everything from transportation to medical appointment, community lunches, lifeskills programs, thrift store, coordination of fundraising for local needs, foodbank etc. Recently, a teacher in the public system identified, along with social services, the critical need for students to be able to access healthy food options on week-ends and started a backpack program. Donations are used to purchase food to tide the student over for the week-end to ensure they don’t go hungry on week-ends. (about 30 students in the community benefit from the program). The same church that started meeting in a pubic school building is now a key sponsor of this program for students in the public system.

    Story 2 – several years ago now, wood forums were held in various places in the province. School District 91 was instrumental as a partner in those programs which raised awareness of opportunities to better utilize wood fibre – from primary breakdown to artisan wood products. The school district partnered with industry to run a school based wood products business development competition. Several students who were part of those competitions went on to UBC to focus on wood products manufacturing. The school district also donated the use of SD buses and drivers to provide transportation for mill tours. The ‘circle of life’ that happens in rural communities resulted in increased and stable support from mills in the area for sponsoring youth programs and partnership programs in the school district. Rural schools and school districts have opportunities to build relationships with other agencies and employers in a way that is not well understood by urban administrators.

  29. Gene

    Our school has become a leader in educational innovation. A.L. Fortune Secondary has hosted 31 school visits over the past 3.5 years and our progressive approach to personalizing the educational experience has now taken off in several other communities. We began our journey out of the sense of necessity (as our enrolment had significantly declined over the past decade) but in the process of “re-imagining school,” we have created a model that enables students and staff to both share their passions for learning and help students to take greater ownership of their education. We know that there are many distinct advantages to a teaching/learning in a smaller school: a critical one being the ability to create strong connections and be well known.
    Schools of all sizes, from both rural and urban settings, have been influenced by our school of 224 students – and a big imagination.

  30. Doris

    My husband and I raised our 4 children on our cattle ranch in the Okanagan Valley where our children attended their catchment area school. To attend their schools they would have to be up by 6 a.m or before depending upon the weather to drive 10 km on a logging road to catch their school bus and returned home by 5 p.m.. When they became involved in school sports their day became even longer some time returning home by midnight. The challenges for families of rural schools can be overwhelming but the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Our children are now young adults with successful careers and have achieved a post secondary education. The qualities that they have displayed have been recognized, for strong work ethic, punctuality, discipline and appreciation. The qualities that have been praised are not unique as fellow rural students have demonstrated the same disciplines. Rural Education is of vital importance to this province. To invest in Rural students you are building the foundation of a strong future. To not invest in rural education would be a discrimination to society. Be creative with your financing. Provide bussing and services to those that are challenged with selection. Allow the rural schools to be creative with their allocation of funds using it for their schools.

  31. Derrick

    I’ve lived “rural” my entire life. I have experienced only rural schools as a student, teacher and administrator.
    Currently my position is a principal of a small rural secondary school that is witnessing a significant decline in enrollment. That is resulting in real challenges when trying to meet the needs of our students. Programming using a traditional block/semestered schedule no longer presents itself in a way that is possible when constrained by the limited amount of funding that such a low number of students generates.
    I am of the opinion that our education system needs to be turned upside down and shaken, add in a few new parts and pieces and create something new that will encourage creativity, personalization and 21st century skills in every graduate so they are prepared for the world they are entering – not the one we entered when we graduated.
    Small schools are awesome learning environments and rural teachers often are the key to making things work in challenging scenarios – together with a new educational paradigm, I believe rural schools can be the flagship of educational practice in BC – the Finland of Canada and a leader in preparing our youth for a world they live in like no other educational program in the country… who’s with me?

  32. Julie

    I grew up in a rural school as a child and really enjoyed the community feel about it. Now, my oldest child has had the experience both of a large in town school and this current rural school we are in now. I feel that both my enrolled children are thriving both socially, as everybody knows and helps everyone, and educationally, as there can be a lot more 1-1 interactions between teachers, students etc. in smaller class sizes. It feels like an extension of our family.

  33. Heather

    My children went to school in the East Kootenay region and our family endured two school closures while my kids were between Grades 1 and 5. We were lucky that there was still an option for our children to still attend a school in our community although it meant busing versus walking to school. The school closures still produced a lot of anxiety for my children related to changes in building, teachers and even peers. One of my children changed schools twice between Grade 2 and 5 and lost trust in the security of the school system. I believe this contributed to a loss of connection to school and ultimately lead to withdrawal from school and a failed attempt to complete graduation requirements online. I have been extremely disheartened by the funding of rural public education and the apathy that I see in many of the teachers. Many people I know are investing in education in the private school system to ensure success for their children.

  34. Helen

    I spent a short time as a teacher of a small class on the island and since then have watched the school grow into an amazing educational place with excellent and caring teachers and a very supportive community. I also know that if the children were to be sent off island by ferry most of the parents would leave. They wouldn’t be able to condone their children going off especially in winter when the seas are very rough. We love our school.

  35. Carolin

    I thoroughly enjoyed my rural teaching experience at Surge Narrows Elem. School on Read Island. I found one of the most challenging obstacles was the use of technology and adequate Internet connection in order to use online teaching and learning resources. More discussion around technology, Internet access, online learning and the blended classroom needs to be considered regarding rural education. I am currently enrolled as a post grad student in the OLTD (On-Line Teaching Diploma) and Masters Program at Vancouver Island University in Nanaimo BC.

  36. Diana

    When a student is involved with programs that serve the wider community, it helps to connect that student to the wider community, additonal skill development and social cohesion. Schools should be a resource for our students so that they have access to skills and services that are not part of the curriculum or available during class time.

  37. Deborah

    I have chosen to work in rural schools for most of my working career. Right now I teach at uNBC but continue to work in a rural district, because these are truly education focused buildings, educators and families are the heart of the community, the students are the soul. Rural students require the best educational opportunities available to realize their dreams. It is important that our rural areas remain vital. The sense of community and belonging generated in our rural schools is essential to a community’s well being.

  38. D.

    When the francophone program moved from our town to a larger town, many parents pulled their children out of it. For them, it was more important that their children go to school in their own community rather than attending the program of choice they were entitled to.
    When our community welcomed Syrian refugees, some of their children started to attend school here. Not only the fact that they could attend school near their new home made their settlement much easier but very dedicated teachers being part of the refugee committee helped these children adapt to their new life even outside of the school. It was extremely beneficial and would not have been possible had the children been bussed to another town. Making new friends would also have been a bigger challenge for them.
    Benefits of rural or semi-rural schools are countless.

  39. Jennifer

    I attended a 2 room school house from K-Grade 8 with about 12 kids. I learned a lot of education and was provided the opportunity to do many things students in larger schools cout not. Then I attended highschool in a small school with less then 150 kids. Again this allowed me to form relationships with teachers and the students in my school. I was able to play on any sport team I wanted and had great opportunities

  40. CS

    Our daughter attends a K-7 school (40 students split in 3 classes) in our village (pop. 300 or so). We feel lucky because the facility was newly built shortly before she began her school life (as opposed to some other commenters’ experience with poor buildings etc). I am very pleased with her school and the staff, both in what it gives her and what it gives our community. My only fear is that some kind of decision would occur to close it — it would impact our family’s life drastically and also alter our whole community atmosphere — likely many people with children would move away since our village is remote and attending daily in another community would be very difficult.

  41. W

    When I talk of my rural school story, bear in mind that I am someone who grew up in a rural communinity and moved around to different rural BC communities before I finally settled down to start my own family in a rural community. I have always lived in Northern BC, it is what I know and it has been costly in some ways for my family to have chosen to stay in the north.

    I have always felt that there is a pretty big divide in the quality of education that students receive in rural (northern) BC school districts than what is received in urban centers. Some of the teachers we have are very good, but they can also be very entrenched. New, energetic teachers don’t seem to stick around in the north; they tend to try it out but don’t get enough hours so they head south and don’t come back. I have also founnd that a surprisingly large number of public school district administrator/management positions put their own kids in private (christian) schools, which makes me angry in one sense because our school system is good enough to provide them a pay cheque, but not good enough for their own kids to attend.

    I have several kids in our rural public school district and for the most part they do well. I do sometimes lay awake at night very worried about what my special needs child will face in as they advance. They entered the school system with a diagnosed disability and received additional support right away. The following year that support was reduced, and the year after that it was reduced some more, and so on. This year there is very little support and it is being shared with many other kids who do not have a diagnosed disability. It has reached the point where the support is not enough and after I have spent my day working I need to go through my child’s lessons and explain what the homework assignments are to try and catch them up with what was not learned in class, not due to behaviour problems on my child’s part, but because they were left alone to stim or daydream even though every IEP they have had acknowledged that one on one assistance is key to their success. Several times a year I go into the classroom to go over their IEP and it’s really hard advocating for my child to get the help they need. I have written letters to directors and attended board meetings all to try and get proper support so my child willl not fall through the cracks. My child is going into middle school next year and from the conversations I have had with principals, the support will be non-existent, at most they will get placed into a classroom with other special needs students and a teacher who will be there to oversee them for a few hours a week as their added support. My child’s disability is not improving as they age, yet the support is being eroded despite my best efforts to prevent it. I don’t want to imagine what it must be like for other disabled children who may not have someone advocating for them.

    1. Heather

      Funding for special needs in the public school system is its own issue above the rural funding issue. Urban schools are even challenged with providing adequate support to children with documented learning challenges.

      1. W.

        Hi Heather,

        I did not mention funding for special needs in my story. I don’t like my experiences being dismissed as a funding issue. This section asked people to share their rural education story and that was my story. I have not looked at my school districts financial summary for years, so I can’t say if there is a funding issue or not. The fact of the matter is that my child’s support is drying up and that is a big part of my story today.

        Also, this is a conversation about rural education and not urban school challenges. There are far more urban parents and politicians advocating for improvements in urban school districts. Please don’t try and turn a discussion about rural education into one about urban education. Rural people need their voices to be heard!

  42. ModeratorLynn

    Parliamentary Secretary Linda Larson is reading comments and asked the moderation team to post the following response:

    Thank you for the comments. I have been hearing a great deal from parents, school district staff, and community members of concerns regarding aging school facilities, so you are not alone. I appreciate the specific examples that you have provided, and I will continue to look at this as part of my work.

  43. Caley

    I grew up in Winfield between ’90-’03 when I graduated.
    At the time the internet was just becoming a big thing; but cultural diversity was lacking in both physicality and in education. This lack of cultural diversity lead to a disillusioned group of people who are them going into a massively diverse world.
    Bringing more liberal, cultural and lifestyle teachings into rural schools would help prepare students from the cultural melting pot that exists outside of these rural communities. If we as a society want to start breaking down all the racial and bigoted problems, we need to start educating our youth about tolerance and understanding and not just grammar and trigonometry.

  44. Kirsten

    My school was one that was slated to close in June 2016 that was “saved” by the Rural Enrichment Fund. If our school had in fact closed, the impact on the families and community would have been devastating and catastrophic. The turmoil that our staff, students, parents and concerned community members went through was incredible. It would have impacted housing sales, families moving to our area, safety and mental health and wellness. Even now, I can see how the proposed closure has heightened anxiety in my classroom. If rural and remote schools aren’t protected, we will lose the culture and lifeblood of our smaller communities, which would be detrimental to our BC society as a whole.

  45. Kirsten

    In my boys’ high school there is so much focus on academia and none on real life. They claim to be preparing the kids for life after school but that’s only if they fit in the box that’s been created where only students who get good grades are placed. Yes there aren’t trades programs such as Ace-it but this doesn’t change the fact that those students who don’t feel smart are ignored- even told to quit and get a job because their grades don’t reflect well on the school. At our particular school the counselling is in desperate need of change. Counsellors focus solely on career planning and never ask the students why they are doing what they are doing. Rather they focus only on the behaviours that are undesirable and follow up with a lame punishment totally unrelated to the action. Our schools need counsellors who care and that means bringing on more staff. Not to test and assess necessarily- but to be there for the kids as ty try to navigate through highschool. It’s been a terrible experience for both of my boys so far and I only hope that our daughter will see more progress and a school that cares more about humanity than final letter grades.

  46. K.

    I grew up in a village of less than 900 people. Our school was the most important building in our community. We knew our teachers, they knew our families, and whether we were in our out of school, we had an important connection that elevated my learning experience as a student. We were also lucky to have a newly built school that was not dilapidated or in serious need of replacement. When I went to high school, I had to take a bus 45 km to my high school, which was not brand-new, but not more than 20 years old at the time. As a student in both schools, my learning conditions were good, I had access current resources, and my teachers seemed to have good working conditions.
    My children attend a high school that is over 60 years old and in poor condition. Their experience has been very negative due to the learning conditions in the building. The school is a visible eye-sore, in warm weather the temperature in some classes exceeds 32 degrees celsius, there is asbestos in the building, many ceiling tiles are missing, lighting is poor, gathering spaces are small and inadequate, the cafeteria can even hold more than two classes of students at a time, and despite attempts to modify and patch, the physical presence of the building continues to have a detrimental effect on students and teachers. It is incredibly disheartening, because no money will be invested in replacing it any time soon, so our district has to continue investing what little money is available to “patch it up”. We have less than urban schools in resources due to the funding formula our government uses for education, our population is not able to access many services or learning opportunities available to urban students, and on top of that, our kids have to attend a high school where the environment has a negative impact on their learning and engagement. Furthermore, they don’t have any choice…there is ONE high school, and the building does not even have adequate space for our community to gather together for cultural events. This affects the culture of the school and it affects the choices families make when considering whether to move to our community and the choices teachers make when considering whether to work here. As a parent, I am incredibly disappointed my children have not had the same high school experience I had as a rural kid, nor have they enjoyed the same opportunties.

  47. Shelley

    My children went to Dewdney Elementary. I have to say that it was a magical time. The staff that was there were incredible and became like family to mine. My children learned how to be compassionate, empathic strong young adults. The inclusion within the community was almost perfect. We all learned to be part of that bigger picture outside our own homes. Having this experience has lead my whole family to know how it is to belong to something larger. The school taught my children not just academics and the physical aspect it taught them to see the world with wider view. I have to say that there were times that I could have put my children in a large school with more amenities but did not want them to feel like they were just a number. I truly believe that if more money is spent in the rural communities that it is the best for those children that will benefit from having a bit extra at their small schools.

  48. Erika

    I attended a rural school with about 25 students as a child. Friday’s classes ended at 12pm so that a trip to town could be made before stores closed. A lot of the time the teacher/principal loaded some students up in his car and the bus driver dropped the rest who were not going to town off at the lake. During the winter the community would plow any snow off the ice to create a large skating rink and there was always hot chocolate to drink by the bonfire while roasting hotdogs. The school provided this for everyone who came. In the summer it was watermelon and swimming. Once school was out for the summer, baseball was still in. Children who didn’t always make it for classes the year before, made it for ball practice and connected over reading batting lists and telling stories about the Blue Jays, our schools adopted major team.
    That little school was rebuilt once after a fire, moved to a portable after a second fire, then into a community hall, and finally the children were dispersed to other schools 30+km away.
    Fast forward 25+ years and while the school I once attended no longer exists, there is still a school in our area which closes at 12pm so that families can travel to town to do their shopping. Rural education encompasses the entire community and creates a space where everyone comes together for the children. It creates a town and community which children thrive in during their early years, resent in their teens and learn to appreciate as adults. Rural schools are a place graduates want to return to when the time comes to raise their own children, because they know they won’t find that same connection, in the same way, in an urban setting.

  49. Dawn

    I attended school in Princeton, B.C. It was a small school by city standards, but it was a place where I learned to play team sports, was taught public speaking, learned square dancing and other dances, acted in plays, sang in choirs, studied art, saw important films, went on field trips and sports trips, in addition to learning all I needed to know to get to university. Our school was very much a part of the community.

  50. Christine

    Over crowed school, unreliable plumbing, mold in classrooms. That is our school story. Evacuating school due to H2S, school sports not offered for kids due to lack of teacher involvement. That is our school story. Charlie Lake has been on the tear down list for years and nothing is done. We just keep getting bigger and bigger. The school keeps getting worse and worse.

  51. Warren

    It is a stretch through time to look back at my early teaching years in the tiny community of Kitwanga in the brief years the school carried programs for K – 11, but the role the school played in the communities it served (a non-native settlement and two first nations reserves) went far beyond the hours of instruction.

    School life was not separate from life in the village or the valley; they melded into one. The school gym was the community hall and hosted dances, potlucks, athletic tournaments and quilting bees indiscriminately. Parents, neighbours, friends, teachers and students all lived close to each other and although it took a while to become accustomed to living in a glass bowl, as teachers we all developed a powerful sense of ownership of our place in the community and the multiple roles we played.

    As a novice teacher my assignment included all the French (8 – 11) as well as the English and Physical Education at those grades: a total of 12 preps. My evenings were full of planning — but on the other hand, with tiny classes, there was little marking. Since I taught many of the same students three courses, I grew to know them very well, especially after a few years. When I arrived at a larger high school some years later, I was slightly amused to hear teachers complain about 4 preps — but not so amused to be marking loads of 30 papers at a time.

    The real knowledge teachers gain of their few students in small communities can have great power, but it takes significant effort to maintain perspective and a certain skill to maintain positive relationships in what can sometimes seem like a large family populated by many distinctive personalities.

    Professionally, the most important lesson I learned in Kitwanga was that every class is made up of separate and unique individuals, each person with different talents and needs. The greatest professional challenge I faced was meeting those needs with the limited resources of the small school. I am very happy to know the Ministry is examining the situation of rural schools; they are special places and in some ways reflect the best things education can offer.

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