“We may not be big but we’re small!”
As CBC radio listeners know, that’s the motto of the Vinyl Café, the vinyl record store at the heart of Stuart McLean’s storytelling series.
I think the motto counterbalances another common theme of our times: “Bigger is Better”. A concept which often leads to trouble economically, politically, and environmentally.
The Vinyl Café motto is also a good fit for Lions Bay Community School, a primary school in School District 45 which enrolls approximately 60 students per year in kindergarten to Grade 3. A privately run preschool also operates on the premises.
In June, I attended the school’s leave-taking ceremony for its Grade 3s, a ceremony which marks their “graduation” and acknowledges their future status as intermediate students at other schools starting in September.
Lions Bay, it seems to me, is so big in what it does even though it is small.
Part of it is the setting. Nestled in the forest, the school seems to be swimming in an ocean of green.
Part of it is the architecture. Now over 30 years old, the school is built on an open-concept plan which allows an unparalleled flow between learning spaces and allows the teaching staff an exceptional amount of flexibility.
Part of it is the community. Families who choose to live in Lions Bay have made a specific lifestyle choice and they are active participants in the school because it is a major focus for the community.
There are challenges, too. Because it is so highly dependent on area demographics, enrollment at the school can only be maintained as long as there are young families in the area or willing longer-distance commuters (for example, if Squamish families or Horseshoe Bay residents were to choose the school for their children).
In addition to the excellent teaching staff, the supportive community, and the outstanding physical environment, size is something else that gives Lions Bay an edge. Being small helps the school fulfill its mission statement “to provide a safe learning environment and strive to enable students to become confident learners”.
The size of the school, in my opinion, keeps the student experience at the heart of operations by allowing a higher degree of personal attention. It has also sparked innovation in pedagogical approaches.
These factors have all combined to ensure success for these young students.
Being small can be effective.
Which brings me to the measures being taken to restructure the bargaining framework in BC’s public education system. Measures which I hope are not a prelude to regionalizing or eliminating Boards of Education.
As John Abbott, President of the 21st Century Learning Initiative, cautioned during a visit to West Vancouver earlier this year, losing local governance puts the future of learners at risk by distancing the local community from decision-making.
So here’s what I hope our provincial government and the leadership of BCSTA remember as they work together during the remaining days of summer.
Bigger is not always better.
Artwork by Lions Bay students on display in the gym.