by Marie Williams-Gagnon, Transcript & Free Press
“Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire.” ~William Butler Yeats
The choice of where to be educated may seem like a more modern issue but history tells us otherwise.
The January 9, 1936 edition of The Glencoe Transcript included the following front page report:
“Alvinston, Forest, Glencoe, Petrolia, Strathroy and Watford high schools will during the early months of the new year carry out a series of inter-school debates. The local school has been grouped with Alvinston and Strathroy. The subject of the first debate, to be at Glencoe, is ‘Resolved that it is more advantageous to a student to receive his secondary education in a small school than in a large one.’”
Obviously, even 75 years ago, the debate over larger vs. smaller schools was in full throttle. Two weeks later, The Transcript carried an article declaring the small school education as the victor in the debate.
Unfortunately, that is not all it takes to keep a school open as the communities of Metcalfe and Caradoc South well know.
Keeping a high school open in a municipality such as Southwest Middlesex is something that students and community members have fought for in more recent years. It’s a justifiable battle. One need only look at communities that have lost their high schools to see the challenges they have since faced.
Not only is it of great importance for those earning an education to be able to learn close to home but community members certainly need to recognize the importance of such a building in economic development. Having both elementary and secondary schools in a community attract both families and, subsequently, businesses to our doorstep. A greater population base leads to economic development and to greater opportunities.
This is a fact that the council of the Municipality of Southwest Middlesex is well aware of and, in sending out a bright orange leaflet to residents in late November, they hoped to share that knowledge.
There is no doubt that declining population is a factor everywhere, not only in local communities. The Baby Boomers are on the verge of becoming seniors and their own children have not filled the schools the same way their parents once did.
Although not involved in an ARC and immediately threatened, GDHS is among the schools affected by declining enrolment.
With the provincial funding formulation based on the number of students in a school, declining enrolment leads to declining funding. Furthermore, the declining funding leads to the fewer courses that can be offered. The cat and mouse game continues as some students opt to board buses for larger schools where more courses are perhaps available. The funding that is attached to their student bodies, of course, goes with them.
Admittedly, some parents and their children have been oblivious to the facts until the move has already been made. Some have shared the nightmares of having their child make a team or join a club at a distant high school which leads to even more driving. Making friends or attending events in unfamiliar surroundings have caused more than a few grey hairs.
GDHS serves approximately 350 students from grades nine to 12. In addition to 25 classrooms, there are four computer labs, automotive, woodworking and manufacturing workshops, a large gymnasium and other facilities.
A simple look at the GDHS website shows that the school has 16 clubs and over 20 teams. Of course, none of these opportunities at GDHS or its feeder schools would be possible without the dedication of teachers and community members who come forward to coach and advise. It’s the type of dedication that launches a hockey course or hosts lunch hour meetings with clubs. That is what a small school is all about.
The decisions these 13-year-olds and their families have to make in coming months are without a doubt difficult but they are only cracking the door open to the array of choices they will face in four years when their secondary school education comes to a close.
Make the decisions wise ones. There is much to consider.