King Ge­orge: Keep par­ents in­formed now that de­ci­sion has been made

The Peterborough Examiner - - Opinion -

King Ge­orge el­e­men­tary school par­ents de­serve credit for their mea­sured re­sponse to news their chil­dren will be bused to Lake­field for school next year.

It would have been a shock to open a let­ter from the pub­lic school board that day last week and learn of the plan for the first time.

This is the age of pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, yet the Kawartha Pine Ridge Dis­trict School Board opted not to ask par­ents what they thought about pos­si­ble solutions to a prob­lem that had only re­cently be­come ob­vi­ous: chil­dren would not be able to stay at the his­toric old King Ge­orge school while a re­place­ment is be­ing built next door.

That had been the plan.

How­ever, while de­tails were be­ing fi­nal­ized it be­came ap­par­ent that run­ning a school next to a busy con­struc­tion site pre­sented too many safety risks.

This was the judg­ment of board of­fi­cials, at any rate, and there is no rea­son to doubt their sin­cer­ity. It would have been sim­pler for ev­ery­one to stick with Plan A, but safety has to come first.

Any dis­cus­sion around how to break the news to par­ents would have been in­ter­est­ing.

The board has a fraught his­tory with de­bates over school lo­ca­tion is­sues go­ing back nearly two decades.

Emo­tions and tem­pers of­ten ran high dur­ing meet­ings in­tended to hash out el­e­men­tary and sec­ondary school clo­sures in Peter­bor­ough, Bailieboro and Lake­field.

Things rou­tinely went well past the boil­ing point dur­ing a pro­longed bat­tle over which city high school to close. Pub­lic at­tacks on the mo­tives, cred­i­bil­ity and even hon­esty of se­nior board of­fi­cials were fre­quent.

While the King Ge­orge bus­ing is­sue is tem­po­rary, that in­sti­tu­tional mem­ory would have pushed ad­min­is­tra­tors to­ward mak­ing a de­ci­sion, declar­ing it, and then deal­ing with the de­tails – and any fall­out.

How­ever, that’s prob­a­bly not the only rea­son, or even the main one, the board de­cided to con­sider the op­tions in-house and then hand down a de­ci­sion.

Based on what has now been made pub­lic, mak­ing the call and then giv­ing the school com­mu­nity a pub­lic fo­rum to ask ques­tions and ex­press con­cerns or frus­tra­tions was the right way to go.

First, be­cause this is a tem­po­rary fix. It has noth­ing like the im­pact of closing a school and mov­ing the stu­dents for good.

Sec­ond, be­cause it is the best so­lu­tion to a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion: not per­fect, but noth­ing is; not wel­come, but nec­es­sary.

The board gam­bled that par­ents wouldn’t be overly out­raged, which was a pretty safe bet. No one wants to risk their child’s safety, and the long-term pay­off for a year of in­con­ve­nience – a new state-of-the art school build­ing – re­mains very at­trac­tive.

And there are less ob­vi­ous ben­e­fits. As some teach­ers and par­ents have said, many chil­dren will en­joy the ad­ven­ture of bus­ing to a dif­fer­ent school. It will also give them and their par­ents an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what ru­ral fam­i­lies go through as part of their nor­mal rou­tine.

One ad­van­tage of bus­ing to a sin­gle site is that is keeps the school com­mu­nity to­gether.

How­ever, young junior and se­nior kinder­garten chil­dren might be bet­ter off stay­ing closer to home. Ev­ery op­tion to find space for them at nearby Ar­mour Heights school should be ex­plored.

With the big de­ci­sion made, de­tails need to worked out and par­ents will be a valu­able re­source. They should be con­sulted and kept in­formed in ev­ery in­stance.

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