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LETTER: Cuts at Castlegar Primary don't just hurt programs - they hurt kids

What has 34 legs, speaks Russian but has no teacher? 

The soon-to-be Grade 3 Russian Bilingual (RB) class.  

Unfortunately, it is the intention of school administration to split this class between two schools: 13 children will remain at Castlegar Primary in a split Grade 2-3 RB class, while four children will be sent to a split Grade3/4 class at Twin Rivers Elementary School.

Understandably, the parents are concerned for the social, emotional, and academic impact of breaking up a group that has been learning together since at least Kindergarten.  As advocates for their children and for a unique Russian bilingual program, these parents have started a successful online petition, spoke to EZ Rock’s Jayne Garry who aired the piece, and attended a school board meeting in Trail recently to present the issue.

Like the Lorax for the trees, the parents spoke for the children who do not want to see their class dismantled.

And it seems that similar stories are being written throughout BC.  There is  not enough money for teachers and best education practices for all children.  

In our resource-rich province, schools are underfunded, classrooms are overcrowded with all kinds of students with varying needs, and when teachers speak out to let us know this, the Liberal BC government responds with legislation to silence them.  Does this widespread saga have any happy chapters?

Maybe - if you believe in miracles.

The RB parents plainly but passionately asked the school board for an ordinary miracle - please find a way to keep this class together in one school. The parents of these 17 kids would like the school board to supply a teacher for the Grade 3 RB class to be housed either at Twin Rivers or at Castlegar Primary.

It won’t be easy.  Decisions on education seem to be driven from "number crunchers" and not from professional educators with a determination to see every child in the best learning situation.  In this environment, laying-off a teacher for a “savings” of about $100,000 is not actually a “savings” but a lost investment.  This is not the way to solve the problem of a chronically underfunded school system in BC, nor how to solve our teacherless-in-Castlegar scenario, and this is where the hope for an ordinary miracle begins to fade.

The miracle can be realized only if the approach to the School District #20 budget is to supply teachers for real demand first, and then with whatever is left over, pay for those administrative and peripheral services.

But this would mean that teachers - and all that they do for our children, our communities, and our future - are valued and respected.  In this recent climate of turmoil between the BCTF and the BC Liberal government and the media slam campaign and legislation against BC teachers, is it really any surprise that laying off a teacher and splitting up this class of children may look just fine to those with accountant-eyes only?

Perhaps the Lorax said it best:  “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.”

There is an online petition anyone can sign, at https://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/bc-mla-kootenay-west-fully-fund-castlegar-primary-as-a-k-2-school

Linda Harwood

Castlegar