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