Thompson Rivers University

TRU Master of Education Student Finds Solutions To Keeping Interior Schools From Closing

July 9, 2012

TRU Grad Student Finds Solutions for Interior Schools

A study done by a TRU Master of Education student may throw some light on saving rural schools from the chopping block in the face of declining enrollment in parts of B.C. The survival of a rural school, faced with shrinking numbers of students and funding, calls for innovation, creative thinking and the growing use of online learning.

Instead of seeing budgets and students go to remotely run distance education programs, the Valemount School, in the Blue River area of B.C., developed hybrid “local-online” courses.  This allowed students at the school to take a wider range of courses while working with peers and local teachers at the school.

Like the district as a whole, the secondary school in Valemount has been experiencing a steady decline in its student enrolment. In 2006-2007 there were 135 students at the school. In 2009-2010 there were only 89 in total. Since schools are funded, and also opened and closed based on student numbers, administration and the school district has had to make difficult decisions when considering the future of Valemount Secondary.

Rural schools are an anchor for the community, they provide good local jobs and when schools are closed it has a dramatic effect on the future of the town. “Studies show that when a rural school dies, so does the town,” says TRU grad student Erin Khelouiati, who worked in the school district and studied the Valemount plan. “When there’s a viable solution for the students and for expanding course offerings, everybody benefits.”

Success of Localized On-Line Learning Programschools located in communities such as Dunster, Mackenzie, Bear Lake and Willow River.  These rural schools were located in single resource towns in which larger economic changes such as global recessions, have a profound trickledown effect on the demographics of the communities.  In total 197 schools have been closed in BC since 2002.

Principal: Dan Kenkel
Family of Elementary Schools:  Valemount
1300 – 6th Avenue, Valemount, B.C. V0E 2Z0
Phone: (250) 566-4431
Fax: (250) 566-4551
September 30, 2011 Enrolment – 84
School District 57

Dr. Norm Friesen
Thompson Rivers University
Canada Research Chair in E-Learning Practices
T: 250-574-3620


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