The groups involved in protesting potential school closures in Maxville, Alexandria, and elsewhere have advanced many arguments – including how young families, local economies, and property values might be affected. But perhaps none are more convincing than the idea that small schools can have a positive effect on the mental health of students.
The office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth in Ontario published a report on child and youth mental health in Ontario, which says the experiences people have as children can have an effect on their mental health later immediately and later in life. “Too few supports or too many negative experiences at a time can leave children vulnerable and overwhelmed,” it says.
The report notes most children spend many hours a day at school, and says services should be available where students are, “in order to reduce stigma and keep people connected to their communities.” The report quotes a study completed by the York Board of Education, which included parents and other education stakeholders. “The most frequent comments about well-being were the need for teachers to be aware of students’ social and emotional needs, as well as their academic needs, and a desire for resources to support students’ social and emotional needs in the schools.”