When One Door Closes

As many of you know, I am a municipal reporter and columnist. For the newspaper this week I combined the two elements in my column, and though this may seem a local story, it is one that is played out across the years and across the miles:

Stone One-room School (c.1820)

Stone One-room School (c.1820) (Photo credit: origamidon)


            “At the Board meeting of November 20, 2012, the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) approved the closure of the Ruthven Public School effective June 30, 2013 and declared the school surplus to the needs of the Board.”

            The above paragraph was included in a notice to the Town of Kingsville in April along with the announcement that the GECDSB was issuing a proposal to offer the property for sale at a fair market value to a number of organizations. Yes, that is a door you hear closing.


            School closings are hard. They are hard on the children who called the Ruthven Public School their school. They are hard on the teachers and staff who taught and worked at the school. They are hard on the community. And they are hard as they close a door never to be opened again.

            The saying “when one door closes another one opens” is trite but true. The students from Ruthven will be transferred to other schools, the majority to Jack Miner, and I am here to say that the transition will work. How do I know? Because many many years ago my school was closed and I was transferred to Jack Miner Public School (at the time it was Gosfield South Public School). The difference was I went from a one room school house to what we referred to as the “big school”. The transition for the Ruthven students should not be as daunting.

            At the time I was transferred a lot of the one room school houses in the area were closed so I was not the only deer caught in the headlights of a big change. At my school, six grades were taught in one room, while the grades ones and twos were taught in the boys’ and girls’ rooms—the rooms that housed our coats and bathrooms. We were civilized though—the bathrooms were closed off from the main part of the boys’ and girls’ rooms—so the six and seven year olds were not being taught how to read with Dick and Jane, Puff and Spot in the presence of the toilets.

            I remember my first day at the “big school”. I had to take a bus to get to the school which was a scary adventure in itself. Then when I arrived at the school there was some confusion as to where to go. The newbies had not been introduced to the new school beforehand (which on reflection would have been a really really good idea). When things were sorted out, I found myself sitting in a classroom of about 30 kids all the same age. We were pretty well all ten years old, and in my class many of us were like fish out of water—joining kids whose home school was Gosfield South. I guess we were somewhat of a foreign entity, and I heard rumours later that our intelligence was in question as no one was certain if the kids coming from the one room schools were up to speed.  Speaking on behalf of my cohorts— we were.

            I do not remember the transition taking long. I liked my new school, and my teacher went to my church so that was comforting. There were quite a few of us in the same boat so it seemed to go pretty smoothly. There were a lot of advantages to going to a bigger school though I missed some of the community feel of my little school. To this day I do not regret the opportunity afforded us.

            Kids are resilient. They cope because they have to—and what is at first strange and weird becomes normal. I feel badly for the students who may no longer be able to walk to school, and be “hugged” by their tightknit community, but speaking from experience, adopting a new school is not insurmountable. Economics govern and we may see some other closures and adaptations in the future. I know if my kids were affected I would be concerned—but moms and dads, students and teachers: consider this a new and exciting adventure. It is the only way to at first, muddle through; second: assimilate; and, third: enjoy the ride.


            I leave you with these words from Anna Quindlen, from her book, “A Short Guide to a Happy Life”: “I learned to love the journey, not the destination. I learned that this is not a dress rehearsal, and today is the only guarantee you get.” Enjoy your summer vacation knowing a new “today” is awaiting you.

Do you have a similar story?

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20 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ah yes, “when one door closes another one opens,” is trite but true. People are enormously resilient, and often have to be.

  2. Children are very adaptable. It’s only as we grow older that we become more rigid and less accommodating to change. I love the Anna Quindlen quote. This should be our daily mantra.

  3. We moved to a different state my freshmen year in high school. On my first day I puked in the parking lot. My mom took me home. Turned out I actually had the flu and didn’t start school for a few more days.

    • you probably needed those days–so how was the general outcome–did you grow to like the school?

      • I made friends, but I was 14. I didn’t like anything again until I was 18.

      • I remember those days–ha ha

  4. I didn’t have a one room school education… but I sure moved a lot and had to start a ‘new’ school many times… but you do what you have to do… Diane

    • yes you do–I went to a one room for the first four years of my education–all in all I went to school for over twenty years and I did not go to kindergarden! so I adapted

  5. I only had to make one change of schools and found it daunting. Around here, like there, many schools are closing. While there are plenty of savings in a school closure there are also added costs. Busing is one.

    • you make a good point — the schools are closing here because they are not full enough

  6. To be human is to be resilient. If our race gave up when the door closed, how would we be here today 🙂
    Great article and post!


  7. Our small rural public school was closed two years ago and the kids have been bussed to a bigger school. I miss the smaller feeling of the old school. but the girls seem to have assimilated just fine. Life is about change..

  8. Both of my girls went to a small rural school when we moved to Ottawa and enjoyed it. Then when that school closed and they moved to bigger suburban schools, they adapted easily. You’re right kids are resilient.

  9. In rural areas, it often seems like the small communities often feel like they are facing a downward slide when the school closes that may be difficult to reverse.

  10. I graduated with 600 similarly aged peers, so no, I do not have a story to share. Just speaking up to say I agree. Children are resilient, as are families, communities, and even schools. Just takes time.

  11. Kids are resilient, yes, but I am a firm believer in “SMALL” is best for schools.

  12. I believe small is beat for schools – but, yes, kids are resilient and they are all moving together so will have each other. I went to 5 primary schools (two of them twice, so , in a way, 7) and I survived!
    That said, the closure of a school, such a crucial part of a village or any community, is not a good move, as you put so well. 🙂

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