Writer has questions on schoolhouse

Decisions for the renovations to the interior of the much discussed, 1939 built Avola log school house

Decisions for the renovations to the interior of the much discussed, 1939 built Avola log school house may be finalized as soon as Oct. 8.

When, where, how and by whom is still taking shape.

This letter to the Editor is the last chance for me to speak about this topic before it becomes a done deal.

I have just a few preliminary questions…

Does the TNRD have a Mission Statement regarding historic-heritage values? Has anyone in the TNRD consulted with experts or done research comparing the Avola log school house with other historic-tourist locations? Has anyone gathered statistics about how many tourists seek out historic locations in western Canada? And how much money they are spending? Have any historians who live within the TNRD come to look and offered their expertise to the TNRD regarding this unique piece of property?

Does the TNRD Area B: Thompson Headwaters Services Committee have a Mission Statement regarding tourism? Do the Avola residents have a Mission Statement or goals and hopes for their community? Are there existing user groups interested in having their needs met? Does the THSC know what they need? Has the Avola Reunion Committee voiced their experience hosting events at the site? Feedback from guests? Significance of preserving the site? Does each group know what the other groups are striving for? Has there been a place, time and leadership to understand each other before tens-of thousands-of-dollars of taxes are spent?

Foundational question:

Is the TNRD owned site in Avola a one room school house? Or is it just a building? Does this site matter to a mere 50-or-so people who live in this place at this time? Or do decisions made at this time have an impact on a far greater number of people travelling to Canada from many places for many years to come?

From there other questions can be answered: Will the meeting to vote about interior renovations retain the features of a school house  (chalk boards, original shelving)?  Or will these 55-75 year old furnishings end up in the landfill?

Will the residents (at least 10 per cent of the population) who are out-of-town on the day of the meeting/vote be allowed to communicate their wishes in some other way? Or will valuable opinions be lost?

Will the residents have the opportunity, freedom and time to reach a consensus? Or will the allotted time to vote be part of a regular business meeting? Who will be allowed to vote? Renters?  Those who live down the road? Those who visit, but do not live in Avola year-round? Only Canadian citizens? What age? Will all three user groups be consulted: the local residents, the reunion guests, the tourists? Do the opinions of these people matter? Past residents? Former students? Former teachers? Historians? Educators? Is this vote binding to the Area B director and the rest of the TNRD, or is it only an opinion poll?

Short question:

Will the fate of this building, potentially of value to so many, be decided once-and-for-all like the vote about the exterior of the building at the pre-meeting on June 18, 2013 by a “majority vote”of two verses three?

To me, these things are not in question:

The role of the One Room School House in the development of western Canada is as significant as the role of the transcontinental railroad.

The courage of the city-educated teacher, stepping off the train, alone, into rural Canada to teach the children of immigrants in a one-room schoolhouse is equivalent, in my opinion, to the courage of each individual member of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police facing the frozen north.

The significance to me of the One Room School House, is more than “just a building” in the same way that the Canadian flag is more than “just a piece of cloth.”

The One Room School House opened up this wide and wonderful land to settlement.

Preserving this one? To me, it is not a question.

Eleanor Deckert,

Avola, B.C.

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