Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett (second from right) presents Williams Lake Tribune community editor Gaeil Farrar (from left)

COLUMNS: Have a say on rural education

Do you have ideas about rural education and how the provincial government can better meet the needs of students?

Do you have ideas about rural education and how the provincial government can better meet the needs of students, parents, schools and communities in rural areas like ours?

If you do, my colleague Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Education Linda Larson and I want to hear from you. We’ve been asked by Premier Christy Clark to develop a Rural Education Strategy. We aim to create a strategy that presents long-term solutions for the unique challenges that face our rural school districts and communities. Our BC Liberal government knows that children and families in rural BC need the best education we can give them, close to home. However, we know that when it comes to improving rural education, parents and those with first-hand experience of the current system know best what challenges exist and how we can address them most effectively.

That’s why we’ve created a forum for open discussion, so your insight can inform a draft discussion paper, which we will then open up for further online comment and discussion at regional meetings in our communities. Once we have consolidated all your feedback, we will use it to shape our final report on an integrated rural education strategy, which will include recommendations for future action on rural education. One aspect that we’re looking for feedback on is the important roles that our schools play in the social, cultural and economic lives of our rural communities. Our school buildings often work overtime as spaces for before- and after-school childcare, community groups and local sports teams, and we’d like to get a broad sense of the diverse uses for schools in rural communities across B.C.

I encourage you join in the discussion, the first phase of which will be open until Jan. 9, 2017. To find out more, visit http://engage.gov.bc.ca/ruraleducation/ or call my constituency office at 250-305-3800.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Williams Lake Tribune, which received the 2016 Business Award at the British Columbia Multicultural Awards last week — thank you for being a champion for multiculturalism in our community.

Contact MLA Barnett’s constituency office: Phone: (250) 305-3800, e-mail: donna.barnett.mla@leg.bc.ca. Donna Barnett is the Liberal MLA for Cariboo-Chilcotin.

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