I travelled up the Rossland hill on a dark, snowy, and dreary Wednesday evening to attend one more school board sponsored community meeting. The meeting did not produce much of what I had not heard before.
What impressed me about the meeting was the energy, passion, and open-mindedness of the some 200 residents of Rossland who attended the meeting.
The participants at each table were intent on finding some part of the solution to the educational issues facing Rossland and the surrounding community. At some of the tables, there were students engaged along with the adults in a discussion of the future of education in their city. It was heartening to see young fathers caring for their children while speaking of what they thought education should look like for the children they were holding.
I spoke a few days ago with a bright young lady from Trail who asked the obvious question. Given that a larger school enrolment at J.L. Crowe would give all students more course options, what would be gained by high school students remaining in Rossland?
The answer I gave her was that the Rossland high school students by remaining in Rossland would retain “a sense of place.”
It is a devilish truth that so many of the best things in life cannot be described, but we all know them when we see them. What I saw in the faces of the people engaged in the Rossland community meeting was “a sense of place.”
On this dark snowy day people came out of their homes along with their children and their neighbors to discuss the future of their children in their community. Everyone knew why they were there. They were there to re-affirm themselves as a distinct part of the Kootenay community.
We are rapidly losing our “sense of place.” We communicate by Internet with those who are thousands of miles away yet we rarely communicate, nor do we often see our neighbor next door. We are asked to globalize or be lost to the world of change. Our social-change gurus like Thomas L. Freidman tell us “The World is Flat.”
It was refreshing to see in the Rossland community meeting that there are still communities that value knowing where they are and why they are. What the residents where asking was for the opportunity of being who, where, and why they are, while appreciating that in an evolving world those attributes will also evolve.
The issue facing the meeting was not simply the closure of Rossland Secondary School, it was the ensuing community’s loss of “a sense of place.” That loss of place will be a loss to all of us who wish to live in a diverse West Kootenay community.
That is the great conundrum in decision-making facing minor local officials such as me. We are being asked to retain what we have — by losing what we are.
That is the devil’s bargain of our modern political world. We have to somehow learn how to support each other’s “sense of place” and not simply shred the tapestry of our common sense of being Kootenay people just to retain what is finally left behind.
As I drove down the Rossland hill to my part of the Kootenays, it was dark and snowy — but no longer dreary. The faces of all those at the meeting remained in my mind. I was being asked to think clearly before making any decisions and to recognize that Rossland is a sense of place.
Mickey V. Kinakin
Trustee representing Electoral Area I of RDCK & part of Electoral Area J