More than a dozen rural schools in Castilla y León run the risk of not reopening this course due to lack of children. Every September, when the enrollment process closes, doubts fly over the teachers’ cloisters and the WhatsApp groups of parents, waiting to know if their rural school will remain open. Provisional data from the Junta de Castilla y León indicate that three rural schools will close in September, although the unions suggest that there will be a dozen. “We believe that the data given by the Board is not even approximate, because only those who have a single enrolled student communicate and therefore they will close safely,” says Isabel Madruga, from CSIF.
The criterion of the autonomous government is to keep the classrooms open as long as there are at least four students enrolled, although, in the rural world there is an exception: that there be three students as long as there is the commitment of the parents to go to school the following year. kids. This criterion is not always easy in a Community burdened by rural depopulation.
“It depends on whether there is a new family that moves, a family that is leaving, whether the boys go to high school, whether or not children are born …”, explains Laura Velicia, teacher in Torrecilla de la Abadesa (Valladolid ) for 8 years. This center will not reopen in September after a family with three children has left the town, forcing its only student to travel to the main center. The Castilian and Leonese rural school system works through the figure of the CRA (Grouped Rural Centers). They have a school in the main one in the largest population center and smaller classrooms distributed by the less populated municipalities of that natural region.
The teachers of the reference center of each CRA travel to the small classrooms to teach their subjects such as languages, music or physical education. For rural teachers, their schools only differ from those of the cities in the number of students, because the pedagogical equipment, materials and technology are “at the same level or above than in other places,” Velicia points out. “We had very good materials, but not only that was enough,” says the teacher, who, after the closure of her school, has moved to Valladolid capital.
Ángel Álvarez is the director of the CRA of Cabrerizos (Salamanca), which is also going to close one of its classrooms, that of Aldealengua, due to lack of students. “This year we had seven children and there is one who is going to high school. It seems that it is possible that we will reopen because there is a family of four children that is interested, with what would be ten children. The problem is the age difference, because six students They would be elementary school and four years old. And that would mean having three-year-olds join with sixth-year students, and some of them are brothers, “he explains by phone. “So we may not reopen.”
When a classroom like the one in Torrecilla or the one in Aldealengua closes, the students stop going to the schools in their municipality and move to the head. The community and the centers provide students with free public transport -sometimes they are usually taxis- and lunch scholarships. The children from Aldealengua will go to Cabrerizo by minibus and will stay to eat at the center, which has 350 students. There are times when the families themselves decide to transfer their children to the larger schools. According to the director of the Salamanca center, the model is good, because the will of the families usually prevails. In Aldearrubia, another of the Cabrerizos schools, the AMPA and the City Council are committed to maintaining the school.
In Villavieja, Salamanca, neighbors try not to close a classroom
But it’s not always like this. The administration also imposes its criteria and closes larger classrooms. This is the case of the Villavieja school, dependent on the CRA Río Yeltes, in Salamanca. In the whole school there are 24 students, 15 of them from third to sixth grade and the rest from primary and nursery school. In addition, there are two students with special difficulties. This course the center has lost two students, and the Board plans to close. “We do not understand that in recent years we have been open with 26 students and now, that there are 24 of us, they are going to close us,” explains Ana Mateos, spokesperson for the families.
For Mateos, the decision is incomprehensible: “They are condemned to the people.” In recent weeks they have carried out several protests that have had the support of all the people. From the AMPA and from the City Council they defend that if they suppress essential services such as education, “the recovery of the population will be impossible and instead of favoring the settlement of families, it favors depopulation.”
The future of these towns without school is a reality already known in other parts of Castilla y León. Two years ago, the La Pernía school, in Palencia, closed down by running out of children. For its mayor, Mariano San Abelardo, the Board’s decision was a real shame. “My parents studied at that school, me too, and my children too. For me it is a great sadness. The rural world bleeds because young people do not want to stay, and if we have fewer services, it is impossible for people to want to stay. “, indicates desolate.
It is this vicious circle that the families of the Villavieja school want to stop. Therefore, they announce a fight against the Junta de Castilla y León in the coming weeks. “If on September 10 the Villavieja classroom is not open, our children will not go to the school that has been assigned to them. We are willing to sit at the doors with our children for as long as it takes. We are not going to let them close us “, says the spokeswoman for the families.