We propose that, beyond their educational function, schools can serve as catalysts for community participation, social cohesion and the vitality of neighbourhoods. The paper explores the impacts of a school closure on families in an urban neighbourhood in Invercargill, New Zealand. The highest urban depopulation rate in the country has had implications for the viability of Invercargill schools. We present a qualitative study of narratives gathered during an interview-based study of the closure of Surrey Park School. Our analysis highlights the impact of school closure for low-income families and more generally reflects on the place of schools in contributing to social cohesion and the broadly defined health of a community.