In October 2010, Burton residents celebrated the Burton school by watching a play and sitting down to a community dinner together. Last week, some local Burtonians reconvened at the school to discuss its possible future as an expanded learning facility as well as a public school, something called a Neighbourhood Learning Centre.
According to their website, the NLC program is dedicated to making schools “inviting places where people of all ages can access education, community services, recreation and culture seven days a week, twelve months a year – places that promote the well-being of children, families and the entire community.”
Spearheading this new option is Vice Principal Sally McLean who recently learned of the NLC program in B.C. Exploring what the program offered, McLean felt that Burton School is in the perfect position to become a community school. It has the advantage, for example, of being completely wheelchair accessible, she pointed out.
“We just haven’t taken the bull by the horns,” she said as the reason it hasn’t happened already.
What does it take to make it a community school, was the first question she asked at the meeting last Thursday afternoon. Looking down the list of ideas that came out of the October 2010 meeting, it was easy to see that the school would make a great spot for the community to come together and continue to learn.
At the moment, Burton School teeters on the brink of closure. With less than a dozen kids enrolled, the school’s survival as an educational institution is precarious.
“Every time there’s a potential school closure, the gym is packed,” said Liz Gillis, as evidence of the town’s deep concern.
McLean agreed, and noted that people were getting tired of coming to meetings and feeling like they were living on the edge. This program would give the community a new and positive focus, a positive project to put their efforts into, rather than just reacting to bad news.
“The safety of the children is top priority,” said vice-principal McLean, who also said that although becoming an NLC wouldn’t keep the school open, it would have to be taken into consideration before the building could be closed.
One participant voiced the idea that creating an NLC might be part of creating attractants to families who wanted to move to a rural community like Burton.
Another mentioned that the building was already ideally situated for keeping people healthy and fit by offering them a space where they could walk in the winter, free of the risk of slipping on ice and snow.
Ready to move on to the next step, McLean asked if there were a couple of people who would be willing to go on a field trip to Revelstoke to check out their NLC and see how the idea might translate into something workable in Burton.