Open Letter Regarding Whitehorse Elementary School
“A community without a school is a dying community.” These are the words I heard from a parent after the Liberal government’s surprise decision to move Whitehorse Elementary School out of downtown.
With no notice to parents, neighbours, staff or elected representatives, the Liberals have made it clear that they aren’t interested in listening to downtown residents. As the MLA for downtown, and someone who loves our community, I want to listen.
Two weeks ago, I gathered with residents of downtown and beyond to discuss the future of Whitehorse Elementary.
Many of the people who attended shared how their lives were made better by a school downtown. Families shared that life was easier for everyone when school, work and home were all nearby. Instead of relying on vehicles, downtown students were able to walk and cycle, building independence while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion. For others, a neighbourhood school has been a reliable, safe gathering space for everyone from church groups to artists. Even for residents who don’t use the school, having it downtown has made our community safer and more diverse. By making this decision with zero consultation, people wondered – does this government not want people to live downtown? Do they want a purely commercial core that is a ghost town after hours? We love our vibrant neighbourhood and are committed to keeping it that way for people of all ages and walks of life. That includes children, and that means schools.
This is why I urge the government to listen and work with us, not against us, in shaping downtown.
It’s not just downtown residents who are worried. Takhini residents also raised concerns about the impact of another school on an already congested street. Many are worried that this could be used to justify a road through MacIntyre Creek.
There are many possible paths forward for this project. We could look at other sites downtown for rebuilding the school. We could build a new elementary school for downtown students on the current site after the French Immersion program is moved. Most importantly, we ask to be included in planning and decisions about the future of our community.
MLA for Whitehorse Centre