Editor's Note: Crane Valley is due south of Moose Jaw just over 45 minutes drive.
Make life in Saskatchewan even better;
Close rural schools?
Ormiston - Saturday, April 14, 2007, by: Jaime Message
An Open letter to Premier Calvert:

I am writing to you on behalf of Crane Valley School. As you should know, since you’ve received a letter from another community member, our school is under review for closure. To start off with I would like to introduce myself. My name is Jaime Message. I have attended Crane Valley School all my life. I have been an active student in our school while achieving good grades.

I am a grade 12 student. After reading that, you might be wondering why I am writing and why I am even concerned with the closure of my school since I will be gone. The fact of the matter is, when you go to a small school you become very close with all the students. We are a big family and families care about each other. They don’t want to see their “siblings” suffer just because some higher up people made the wrong choice. I know that sending some of the kids that go to Crane Valley School to a larger school will seriously affect their learning and social life. Closing our school would be like ripping a family apart. Would you want to rip your family apart?

I can’t believe our Premier would wipe his hands clean of an issue so important as school closures. Schools educate the future of our province, country and world. You’ve said the person to talk to is Deb Higgins, Minister of Learning. She says it’s not her problem and that she’s not responsible for it. If the Minister of Learning isn’t then who is? The problem has been passed to our school boards causing unnecessary stress on them. It has not only caused stress on our school boards but on parents, school community councils, community members and most importantly the students.

On the Saskatchewan NDP website under platform it is stated that your goal is to make life even better for Saskatchewan families in every region of our province. Is rural Saskatchewan not part of every region? By closing these schools you will not be making life even better. You will be making it worse. By taking away the school you will kill the community. The school is the reason some of these small towns exist. Do you want to be the one responsible for killing all these communities? It also says that with our support you will build the future here for young people. Build the future, don’t close it. Closing these schools is not building the future it’s tearing the future apart.

I love this province. All my life I’ve dreamed of moving back to my family’s farm just as my Dad has, to raise a family, having my children attend the school that my dad and I had attended. I know that no matter the outcome, I will have my children, if I were to have any, attend a rural school. They will not be in a city school. At the rate rural schools are being considered for closure it won’t be too long and every rural school will be closed. So if it means I’ll have to move out of the province, I will. This issue is once again driving people away from our province not promoting it.

I am seventeen, going on eighteen at the end of May. I know I am not the only up and coming voter of Saskatchewan so in the case of a provincial election I would think you would be trying to win our votes. Seeing how the current government has ignored the issue of school closures makes me wonder. Why would I vote for a party that doesn’t believe the children of this province are important? I have the feeling I’m not the only one feeling this way because even though my class is small they feel the same way. This is just a very small fraction of all of Saskatchewan.

Us kids, going through the school closures, are the future of Saskatchewan. I think the future of this province is a pretty important issue. We should be investing in it, making our education system the best we can. We shouldn’t be cutting funds and closing schools. We were told at our last delegation meeting that Saskatchewan was once sitting first, or second, in standings of best educated kids in Canada, when tested on a country wide test. We were also told we are now sitting in eighth place. Just because we were sitting at the top doesn’t mean funding should be cut. It means your doing something right and that the funding should be maintained there, or added to. This would insure that the teachers could teach what they should be teaching. At that same meeting we were also told that at one time rural students were achieving a higher percentage than urban students. The reason rural students are no longer higher, is because school boards have cut teachers. Our school lost two teachers last year. In a rural a school teacher-student ratio means nothing. School boards are cutting teachers trying to find money. We’ve heard that if our school was to stay open, our school board would have to cut another teacher. We would then have three teachers teaching kindergarten to grade 12. Our school board is depriving our students of a quality of education. With these cuts it’s no wonder that we’ve dropped to eighth place.

As Premier of Saskatchewan, I would think part of your job would be to promote our province. To convince people to stay here and make Saskatchewan look like a good place to live and raise a family. As the recent census revealed, Saskatchewan is losing people, especially in the rural area. What is Saskatchewan going to do when no one wants to come back to farm or ranch? Are you going to pay people to come back? Not only for them to come back, but for all the equipment they’ll need.

Everyone keeps telling us that Saskatchewan is about to have an economic boom. If this is the case, are you expecting this “boom” to take place in the urban centres? I personally can’t see where the room for such a big “boom” is in an urban centre. I’m pretty sure it’s going to take place in rural Saskatchewan. As families move back to rural Saskatchewan to fill the jobs created they will ask “Where’s the closest school?” At that point, is the government going to start funding schools the way they should be, so that school boards can reopen schools? If school boards think schools need fixing up now, wait a few years when these schools get reopened. The hardest thing on a building is not having anyone living in it. They would go downhill ten times faster than if we continued to go to school in them.

I would also like to know when closing schools is going to stop. I have a brother in grade 10. My brother and I are to be the 4th generation to take over the Message farm. Is the school my parents pick to send him going to be up for closure next year? This means he will once again have to switch schools and make friends. Also where will that school be? By closing our school, he will most likely have to get on the bus between 7:00 and 7:15. Now if his new school gets closed, how far away will the next school be? Will he be getting on between 6:00 and 6:15? How is that fair to him? He has responsibilities at home, helping with the ranch and farm. He’ll be way to tired to do anything. He’s 16 and he might be able to get through it but let’s put a 5 year-old through that. This is a question that we’ve been asking from the beginning and have still not received a response, from anyone. We would also like to know what happened to the isolated school factor and if it’s still there, what the criteria to fall under it is. I’m pretty sure Crane Valley is isolated. By the time we get answers to these questions it will be too late.

Why would people want to come back, or even come to Saskatchewan if they know that the people living in rural areas are ignored by our government? I strongly believe that you have the power to stop the current situation of school closures. I also believe Deb Higgins has the power to stop it. You’ve appointed Deb Higgins as Minister of Learning, which to me means you have faith in her to take all of Saskatchewan and make the learning experience better for every child. I don’t know about you, but my faith in her is running short, as it has with our school board. As we go up the totem pole we arrive at the position of Premier. If my faith keeps running short, my guess is my faith in you will be next.

On March 27th, 2007, I was granted the honour of sitting in on the question session in the Legislative Building. At least I thought it would be an honour. Instead I saw a bunch of adults that are suppose to be running our province act worse than a bunch of five year-olds. The primary kids in our school act better than that. The way the bickering went on in there was appalling. I saw how the main rule of politics came into play. Each side tried to make the other look bad. Is it always like that? Or does the person/party asking the questions ever get an answer? Not only was there no answer provided for how the government feels and justifies school closures, but no answer was given for the nine women that were sexually harassed. I also watched our Premier not get up once to say anything or answer any questions.

In any large business, where deficits are presented, the higher up people would be held accountable, or responsible. They would most likely be dismissed. Why is it, any different with our education system? Our Minister of Learning is not fighting hard enough for us because nothing has changed in the budget. So why is she not being replaced. Our school boards haven’t exhausted other possibilities to save money. In my eyes they haven’t lobbied hard enough for more money. They put these school divisions in the deficit situations, so why aren’t they taking responsibility for it? Why aren’t they being dismissed and hiring people that can successfully run the “business”?

This is not just an emotional issue and time as Deb Higgins keeps telling us. It is a serious issue and needs to be addressed that way. It shouldn’t be shrugged off because it is emotional. This time is the only time we have to make the school boards, Minister of Learning and you, our Premier realise what you are doing. Not only to Crane Valley but to small towns all across Saskatchewan. This time is very precious and is running out fast. Not only are we running out of time, but we feel we are not being heard.

Deb Higgins said that the money goes where the students are. I guess I don’t understand this statement. The decline in students is not only in the rural areas but also in the urban centres. If the money is going where the students are, then are we sending money to other provinces? If within Regina School Division #4 they lost 758 students (according to figures I’ve been provided with) why did they get an increase in funding of $16,388 per student. I don’t see the money following students here. In Prairie South School Division #210, in which Crane Valley is located, they lost 823 students and suffered from a decrease in funding by $5,779 per student. How is this fair? Why didn’t Regina get a funding cut? They lost children and gained money, while we lost children and got money taken away. Maybe it’s just that I don’t understand the funding formula, but I think it favours the urban centres.

I personally think the time has come for our government to step up and take responsibility for its actions. Admit there’s been faults in the way the education system has been funded and fix them. Show us that you do believe in Saskatchewan and that Saskatchewan can grow. I understand that you are a busy man, but this situation deserves your attention. I think it deserves more than a short form letter. That is why I am requesting an actual response. I’ve heard from your government that this is emotional and that you have faith in the boards, but it’s time we get some answers. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this is so much more than an emotional issue.

Thank-you for your time,

Jaime Message

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