03 October 2010
Closing KSS - We'll Never Know What We've Missed
A Cautionary Tale
The first article in a series looking at Qualicum Beach and the potential loss of our local high school, KSS.
Future articles will look at how we got here, the ripple effects school closure would have on the community, the hard choices we have ahead of us, how this has been handled to date, and what - if any - options we have to save our school.
Your comments, thoughts and suggestions are very welcome.
Simply put, I would not be here if KSS did not exist in Qualicum Beach.
Some may say that my absence would be no great loss to the community. I won't argue the point. I suspect that the town of Qualicum Beach would be able to muddle on without me.
But understand this; there are many young families that put down roots in this community for the same reasons that I did - Qualicum Beach is a great place to raise a family.
Having a quality community high school is a crucial part of that calculation. Subtract KSS from the equation and Qualicum Beach ceases to become an attractive solution for families with school-aged children.
While the absence of one genius web geek may be no great loss to the community, the collective impact of many young families making similar decisions would be devastating.
Should KSS close its doors, we may see a mini-exodus of young families. A more insidious outcome, however, will be all the families who briefly consider moving to Qualicum Beach, appraise their options and find more family-friendly communities elsewhere.
We will, quite literally, never know what we have missed.
"But wait", you say. "I came to Qualicum for the quality of life, not to raise a family."
"My children are grown. If the local high school closes it's doors, the golf courses will remain. I still have lawn bowling, poker nights, a picturesque little town and a mild, if drizzly, climate. Life goes on."
All true. And all very short-sighted.
A Cautionary Tale in 3 Decades
If KSS closes it's doors, Qualicum Beach will be a ghost town in the making. I know that sounds like hyperbole. I know it sounds like fear-mongering. But I've seen this movie before. Here's how it goes....
30 years ago, my grandparents, Sol and Millie, moved to a small retirement community in Lake Worth, Florida. They were in their early 60's and very active. They selected this particular community for its mild climate, easy access to nearby shopping, and readily marketable real estate, should they ever elect to sell.
Most importantly, they chose this particular community for its active lifestyle. There was a community swimming pool, shuffle board and tennis courts, a community center where they could meet up with friends for poker night and art classes.
Being a retirement community, there were no kids in the community outside of Easter Break. Average age of the population was in their early 60's, but they were active 60-somethings. Life was good in Lake Worth, Florida.
They greeted neighbours and bragged about their son, the doctor. They walked their dog and introduced me to their new-found friends, Ethel and George, Bob and Miriam.
Sound familiar? Allow me fast forward this scene to the present day...
My grandmother is in her 90's. She still lives in her own home through the magic of full-time care. Grandpa Sol is gone. As are Ethel, George, Bob and Miriam. The dog is long gone.
The swimming pool is empty. The tennis courts are cracked and neglected. Tuesday night poker was disbanded years ago. No one signs up for art classes at the community center, so they've stopped offering.
With no one to support the local businesses, the local shopping area has turned from quaint but complete to mostly closed.
As the residents have passed on, they've left their empty homes to their children. Not surprisingly, those grown children have no interest in moving into what is now a ghost town, nor does anyone else. Real estate prices have plummeted.
To be fair, that little community served my grandparents well. I have to wonder, though, how well did my grandparents serve their community.
How well will we serve ours?