LETTER: Old School Cafe closure a heart-breakingly bad call
Proudly hanging on a wall of the Old School Cafe is a letter dated May 2011from Education Minister George Abbott. He congratulates the vision of those who established the Alternate School and the Cafe program saying, “I was glad to have the opportunity to visit the Old School Cafe and learn about your fantastic program. I am confident that the Old School Cafe will continue to succeed and grow due to your ongoing hard work.”
That hard work was rewarded last week with a notice of closure from Mr. Bill Ford on behalf of School District 20’s Board. Mr. Ford advised the hard working Cafe staff and students that the Cafe will permanently close its doors to the public in just a few weeks time, coinciding with spring break. The students in the Alternate School will be relocated next year into the school and in doing so, lose their opportunity to gain practical skills and confidence from working in the Cafe.
Not only is this a loss for young people dealing with a myriad of challenges, it will be a significant loss to the community and further erode the number of people visiting the struggling downtown area. First the Credit union shut down, then the Post Office reduced hours and available services and now we will be deprived of a warm and inviting environment where people can meet and enjoy an affordable home cooked lunch or visit over a cup of hot coffee. This little haven for seniors, low income workers, downtown workers and those of us who come into town and stop off for a bite is an important aspect of life in Castlegar. The Cafe and its customers create a level of vibrancy that will not be easily replaced if it shuts its doors.
The Alternate School and the Cafe are a wonderful example of linking our
education system with the broader community which supports it. It is a
“fantastic program” and citizens of Castlegar should at the very least be
consulted before such a permanent decision is implemented. A petition is being circulated to request the School Board reconsider its decision to relocate the school and close the Cafe. I hope you will take a moment to
support this unique education and community service.
Cindy McCallum Miller