Theme 4: A Rural School is the Heart of the Community

The following discussion paper is posted online using a new technology that allows for citizens to comment on a document on a paragraph by paragraph basis. Comments can be added by clicking on the bubble next to each paragraph. Each comment will be moderated so your comment will not appear immediately. Please read the B.C. government moderation policy prior to posting.

Many who commented, particularly parents, mentioned the plentiful positive aspects of the rural school experience, and described their schools as the hub and heart of their community. Many parents who had grown up in small towns themselves made the choice to raise their children in small towns to give them the rural school experience. These parents shared heartwarming stories about the benefits of this life. Others suggested rural schools give students a unique perspective on wildlife and nature.

Many people talked about how rural schools build community and how that teaches important lessons for children as they grow up.

Additionally, some felt that with growing challenges like drugs and mental health, more needed to be done to ensure that rural schools are a supportive and connective environment, and a place for youth to go to be engaged in positive social interactions.

Question: Do you have any additional stories that capture your feelings about rural schools as the hub and heart of the community?

13 responses to “Theme 4: A Rural School is the Heart of the Community

  1. Jennie

    Rural schools do not have the resources that urban schools have. Yes, the rate of drug/alcohol use may not be different, but for those who need support do not have access to it. There are not as many support groups or educators trained in giving students the tools to deal with situations. They have to rely on secondary forms (the internet, books) to gain knowledge rather than someone coming into their classroom, such as a public health nurse, or another type of facilitator

  2. Wayne

    In smaller communities, the school is the gathering place for all kinds of community groups and events. It will vary across the province. Each small community could submit an explanation of how the school like functions as a hub with supporting evidence and documentation. A school in a small town functions like a community centre does in a large city like Vancouver.

  3. Rhonda

    The rural school that my children attended closed in 2002 – along with 7 other schools in Rocky Mountain School District #6. What a blow to the community! i.e. the biggest, most exciting event of the year was the Christmas Concert – everyone from the oldest to the youngest attended.
    Luckily for the Province of B.C. there is a wonderful solution for small, rural communities in B.C. – based on best practice/research: please refer to Simon Fraser University's Community Economic Development Certificate Program. The graduates of this program are leading the way to revitalizing small, rural communities in the best way possible. There is hope at the end of what has been a very long, dark tunnel!!

  4. Alexander

    Having taught in a teacher education program in a remote school district for the past ten years, I welcome the government's initiative on rural education. One characteristic that pervades the school culture, curriculum and perspectives of teachers and students in this district is parochial thinking. I don't mean this in any pejorative sense; it has a strong positive side in its place-based perspective. But it does make it harder to teach about global issues, faraway places and their cultures, and comparisons of local issues in different places.

  5. Amber

    My high school years were spent in another country and my parents wanted me to have a dogwood diploma to be able to pursue university education in Canada without the hurdles of paperwork from other education systems. So my high school education was entirely correspondence. We had internet but not of a quality that allowed full internet education. We were mailed the paper versions of the courses, the books, CD's, videos/documentaries: anything applicable to the courses I chose. There was a wide range of courses available to me, such as Economics 12, Entrepreneurship 12, First Nations 12 (even though I am not First Nations, I could and did choose this course). The arts is where I see this style of education as suffering the most; it is hard to learn drama from a book and without an environment of others involved in it as well.

    However, I think a mixed model would be an excellent idea to pursue. Ideas can include:
    -Rural students being able to study from home some days a week, their course load and schedule flexing to allow for class dynamics on some days with subjects that involve heavy reading/studying being done on the days they can be home
    -Following the Australian Outback example of classes attended by radio, using the full capacity of internet or even phone conferencing to allow interactions of students about course material
    -Teachers videoing the teaching segment of a class for students to watch at a later time or in real time, with followup for clarification and questions, means a video that can be downloaded on slow internet for viewing later, or cd's that can be mailed out/picked up once a month.
    -offering condensed versions of arts courses in shorter blocks, such as 2 or 3 days stints several times throughout the year to allow for drama, music, dance, art class, etc.

    By using technology to teach and enable a wider variety of lifestyles, I think the education experience can be much richer.

  6. Tania

    I can't see that their being more of a drug and alcohol issue in Rural schools. I would think this is more of an Urban issue. Rural schools usually are smaller and most times our schools teachers and administrators know our kids as well as we do and are supportive. We work together as small communities working together. Like the saying "It takes a village to raise a child". Yes the same support should be available to all schools to assist with the mental health challenges, but even in the Urban schools this support isn't sufficient. We needed to be putting more money into our schools not finding was to cut it. Our children are our future and we are limiting their potential. I am glad our Rural school found a way to change how they do business as our school could fall into that area where the enrollment numbers equals if a school stays open or closes and children get bussed furture.

  7. Tania

    With living in a Rural area and choosing this life style for my child. I have seen a Rural school close and the impact on the student especially the young ones having a 45 min to an hour bus ride when their school was in a 5 min walking distance. Those 5 -9 year old kids is a long time to be on a bus and with many of our kids today that have a hard time not fidgeting can make for a not pleasant bus ride. This also cuts into rural family time. Plus the kids are being dropped off on a busy main road. I am thankful this is my last year for my own daughter for school. As the future for the schools in our district is at risk as the majority of the schools being rural. To save costs they close schools but don't think of the impact on the families in these areas. Unless you live here how can you know what is needed. Decisions are being made by one group where it will never affect them. We as the people in these areas just seem to be expected to except it as we have no power over the decisions being made for us.

  8. Adrienne

    The school in a rural community is vital. You can not have community growth without a school in your community. It is also helpful to have children in rural settings go to rural schools. One of the things that I have struggled with is the forced catchment areas of rural areas. They always want to force children into the urban centers, and will bus them into the bigger schools, however they won't offer families that are in the middle of a rural community and a urban area the choice to be bused to the rural school. I understand that there are budgetary restrictions, but that being said there is a large rural/farming area half way between our small community and the closest urban center, and they send out a bus to collect the children to take them into Kamloops, but don't give a transportation option for the families that would like their children to attend our small rural school. These types of decisions definitely effect the level of students that attend the rural schools.

  9. Debbie

    I absolutely agree. Small schools allow for teaching staff to develop very special relationships with students and parents. This in turn develops the students' self-esteem and allows for stronger support with mental health issues.

  10. Ross

    The importance of schools to rural communities cannot be understated. They are often the heart of the community and a major factor in attracting and retaining residents, families and businesses. Simply put, communities without reasonable access to a school will not attract or retain young families which are critical to their long term sustainability and growth.

  11. Heather

    I agree that schools that are at the heart of their community shouldn't just be under the control of the school district. The impact of closure is too great for the entire community to be only their decision.
    In addition, it becomes too easy to target smaller schools for closure. In our school district, the argument for closing our smaller rural school was that it would affect a smaller number of students than closing an urban school. (Fewer parents and less community members can also mean less vocal opposition). In essence, the students at this smaller school would take on a greater burden in order to support programs. In this case,the bus ride around the large rural lots would be in excess of 1/2 hour, and would take away the ability for a single student to walk to school. In addition, the school population has a high percentage of vulnerable and Aboriginal children, who by school closure, would be extremely adversely affected. A system that supports a utilitarian decision, rather than looking at the vulnerability of individuals at that school, or the relative burden put on these school children isn't acceptable.

  12. Shannon

    Schools that are too small to qualify for positions such as school counselors and too far away from school district services need to be given ways to access support services. Or further training, and time, must be given to regular staff members to ensure that students have adequate support systems when they need to discuss personal issues that are directly affecting their education and quality of life.

  13. Dan

    Rural schools are very much the center of many small towns and villages. As such, I wonder if the definition of such buildings needs to be re-imaged — and consequently, funding/support for those buildings extended beyond the responsibilities of individual school districts.

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