One mother’s outrageous idea

Every now and again, you hear of something so outrageous it makes you bolt up straight in your chair. No, it’s not a 60-year-old giving birth.

Every now and again, you hear of something so outrageous it makes you bolt up straight in your chair. No, it’s not a 60-year-old giving birth.

It’s even more outrageous than that. It’s a mother who is trying to reopen a school that’s been closed by the Calgary Board of Education. You have to admire Claudia Weigelsberger. She’s the mom of a four-year-old girl in Parkdale. The community is at the bottom of the Foothills Hospital.

Weigelsberger began to wonder, rather audaciously, “Why can’t we have a school in this neighbourhood?”

The Parkdale school is still there. It reminds you of a church in a Quebec town; it’s a looming presence smack dab in the middle of the community. But the playgrounds are now silent. The CBE uses the school for its own office staff. It’s prime real estate, near downtown, and no one pays for parking.

The CBE closed Parkdale Elementary seven years ago and diverted children to University Elementary. I covered the closure and heard from many frustrated parents.

When a school closes, it cuts a community down at the knees. Optimism fades. The best use for a school is still a school, and as generations switch it will be needed again.

In Parkdale, a private preschool and kindergarten at the United church fills the gap.

Weigelsberger went door to door to get support to re-open Parkdale Elementary. She went to her community association meetings. A visual artist, she’d never done anything like this before.

To the CBE’s credit, it sent George Lane to meet with her group. He told them that the school would be CBE offices until 2011.

Wait. The CBE said there was one school, Colonel Sanders, that had been closed and re-opened with a traditional learning program.

The CBE said, theoretically, it would take 550 students to reopen Parkdale.

But why all or nothing? Weigelsberger has enough kids to begin a kindergarten. Anyone can see the benefits of keeping those kids walking to the school that borders their homes. Could the CBE not participate in a lesson it imparts to its own students? Sharing.

Vacate one or two of the classrooms used for office space.

Begin a kindergarten and a grade one. Let the sound of children’s voices and play fill that empty, weedy, tarmac. How outrageous — a school with children.

 
 
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