Problems linger from school closures in Hazelton

Shannon Hurst's My Town.

They assured us that closing South Hazelton Elementary School was the only option. They said it wouldn’t have drastic affects on our communities and education. They said enrolment was on a steady decline in the area and no matter how hard everyone tried to tell them they thought this was a mistake, money was the bottom line and we lost one of our wonderful schools.

While this is not uncommon anymore and sometimes the Board of Education are sometimes right in doing this, that does not seem to be the case in the Hazeltons.

Two years after closing our school and gutting it there are some big problems and concerns for both parents and students.

First and foremost, this year there are so many kindergarten students that there isn’t enough room for them in the remaining schools. In New Hazelton Elementary they have moved four children to a Grade 1 class calling it a split class. However, is four kids amongst more than 20 Grade 1’s a true split class? Is segregating four kids from their entire kindergarden class a good idea for them? All this to make room for children who can’t get into school because there are too many students already. Class sizes are maxed throughout the area, teachers are faced with more stress and difficult teaching environments and students are going to continue to suffer. All this to save $117,000 a year for a Board of Education who has been in trouble for years.

Then there is the French Immersion program at John Field. A great program that teachers and parents have worked so hard to create and keep going. Now it is once again thriving with high enrolment numbers but guess what? The class which is actually a Grade1 – Kindergarten split is full. There are five children on the waiting list and the Board is refusing to hire another teacher to allow these young students a chance to get in to the program. Furthermore, some of these children already have older siblings in the program which means these new students are not only without a class, they are segregated from their brothers or sisters. Not what any parent wants for the children.

Next we can talk about all the amazing teachers that lost their jobs again this year with further funding cuts to an already decimated education system. Teachers that have been working in schools for years now find themselves living in their community without a job and without options.

Okay, I will agree that enrolment has been down in many places throughout the country but sadly, for those communities that have actually maintained or even increased their student population, they are now suffering the consequences of the masses.

The Hazelton’s have been through so much this past decade and if one message has rang out above it all, it’s how important education is. So many parents have asked, what can we do? Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of options for many of them. First and foremost, write your Board of Education, your MLA, your Premier and everyone and anyone else. As for your child, home schooling is great if you have the time and ability, there is the Seventh Day Adventist school and then of course there is the possibility of moving. The last of which, I would never want for anyone who loves where they live.