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Don't wait until it's too late

We'll see whether trustees have learned their lesson.

We'll see whether trustees have learned their lesson.

A couple of years ago when the Delta school board was in the throes of yet another budget battle, it was decided the best course of action would be to close two elementary schools: Delta Manor in Ladner and Boundary Beach in Boundary Bay. The closures were introduced as proposals, but it became clear early on in the public consultation process that it would take a minor miracle for either of these schools to remain open.

Parents at both schools did their best to provide alternatives, offering suggestions to boost enrollment and revenues, but with a 60-day window in which to work, nothing on that front came to fruition.

I can remember the meeting when the closure decision was made and how frustrated parents were at the timeline, how they implored trustees to make the public consultation process meaningful by bringing stakeholders into the mix before it was a done deal.

I raise this issue because of the front page story - Enrollment decline ahead - in last Friday's edition. The district's own numbers project a drop of another 1,000 students over the next five years, while Ministry of Education projections peg the dip to be in excess of 2,000.

When you look at those figures, and you combine them with statements about how the cupboard is bare as far as being able to make further cuts after a decade of hacking and slashing, it's not a stretch to come to the conclusion that more school closures could be in the cards.

The high water mark in terms of school population in Delta was 1980 when there were 18,763 kids in the system. Given we're already more than 3,000 below that level and steadily dropping, it would stand to reason we don't need - or perhaps more accurately, can't afford to operate - as many schools.

If that's the case, and there are possible closures on the horizon, parents have made it clear they'd like to know sooner than later so they have adequate time to put forward a proposal that would try to avert such a drastic measure.

I realize identifying a school for closure can be a self-fulfilling prophecy as would-be students are soon sent elsewhere for fear the one in the neighbourhood won't be around much longer. Early notification could simply expedite the inevitable.

As much as that's true, at least it gives parents a fighting chance to do something before trustees are forced to make a difficult decision. That's a luxury their predecessors weren't provided.