Fight­ing the good fight ‘til the end

The Glengarry News - - Front Page - BY STEVEN WARBURTON News Staff

Thursday evening’s Up­per Canada District School Board meet­ing was an ex­er­cise in frus­tra­tion for Wendy MacPher­son.

Ef­forts by the trustee for Glen­garry and Stor­mont to save three schools and to add French im­mer­sion at Maxville Public School were re­peat­edly stonewalled by her col­leagues.

At the meet­ing in Kemptville, the cul­mi­na­tion of six months of de­lib­er­a­tions, trustees ap­proved a staff re­port rec­om­mend­ing the clo­sure of eight schools.

But the clo­sures did not come with­out a fight.

Mrs. MacPher­son pro­posed that Roth­wellOsnabruck’s Grades 7-12 pro­gram be spared. She claimed that the In­gle­side school was thriv­ing when it of­fered French im­mer­sion, adding that just eight years ago, the school had to use porta­bles.

She pointed out that the com­mu­nity has ral­lied be­hind the school and that cor­po­ra­tions in the area had even pledged money to help with its pro­gram­ming. Call­ing it a “di­a­mond in the rough,” she said Roth­well-Osnabruck could be a K-12 model school of which the board could be proud.

She also sup­ported bids to res­cue Ox­for­don-Rideau Public School and Ben­son Public in Ed­wards­burgh/Car­di­nal.

All pro­pos­als were de­feated by 6-5 mar­gins with the ex­cep­tion of the Ben­son mo­tion, which was de­feated 7-4.

In ef­fect, the trustees didn’t wa­ver from the staff re­port. Later in the evening, Mrs. MacPher­son pro­posed tak­ing North Stor­mont Public School off the list of rec­om­mended Cat­e­gory 3 school clo­sures, mean­ing that North Stor­mont would be closed later pend-

ing Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion ap­proval of an ad­di­tion at nearby Rox­more Public School. A sim­i­lar pro­posal to save May­nard Public School, pend­ing ap­proval of an ad­di­tion at Welling­ton E.S., was also de­feated.

Al­though the trustees stuck with the re­port, only one, Corn­wall rep­re­sen­ta­tive David McDon­ald, spoke at length about why he op­posed the sug­gested amend­ments.

Mr. McDon­ald said Roth­wellOsnabruck’s en­rol­ment had been dwin­dling for the past 10 years and that in Septem­ber, it’s pro­jected to have less than 90 stu­dents. “Trustees, are you will­ing to take money out of the bud­get for a low-en­rol­ment school?” he asked. “Are you will­ing to pass a bud­get that funds an over-staffed school where the com­mu­nity has de­cided to go some­where else?”

Mr. McDon­ald said he doubted that re­in­stat­ing French im­mer­sion would bring the stu­dents back and that con­tin­u­ing to sup­port schools like that would

trans­late into a lack of ser­vices at other schools. But trustee John McAl­lis­ter, who voted to keep Roth­well-Osnabruck open, said he be­lieved French im­mer­sion would bring the stu­dents back and that he was will­ing to fund that school.

There was a strong pres­ence of Roth­well-Osnabruck sup­port­ers at the meet­ing, most of whom left shortly af­ter the trustees voted against sav­ing it.

Jen­nifer MacIsaac, who has one son who grad­u­ated from Roth­well-Osnabruck and an­other in Grade 10, says she is “se­verely dis­ap­pointed” with how things turned out. Like Mr. McAl­lis­ter, she says that the school’s low cap­ture rate is due, in part, be­cause the school no longer of­fers French im­mer­sion.

“You have to look at the com­pe­ti­tion,” she said, adding that Our Lady of Good Coun­sel, the Catholic school lo­cated right across the street from Roth­wellOsnabruck, has al­most 200 stu­dents and of­fers French im­mer­sion pro­gram­ming.

“French-lan­guage learn­ing is a ne­ces­sity,” she said. “We were put at a dis­ad­van­tage when ev­ery school in the area of­fers French ed­u­ca­tion and you don’t.”

Mrs. MacIsaac also gar­nered sym­pa­thy from Tanya Flaro, who was one of the strongest voices be­hind the save Char-Lan District High School move­ment. Ms. Flaro was at the meet­ing along with a con­tin­gent of fel­low CharLan sup­port­ers – many of whom were wear­ing the school colours, blue and gold.

“We felt for the Roth­wellOsnabruck par­ents and stu­dents,” Ms. Flaro said. “We could see how dis­ap­pointed they were and we knew that could have been us.”

Al­though the Wil­liamstown school was not on the clo­sure list, Ms. Flaro and her fel­low sup­port­ers still at­tended the meet­ing just in case it got added. “We went be­cause it would only take one trustee to say he or she didn’t agree with keep­ing Char-Lan open,” she said.

Once the meet­ing was ad­journed, she ad­mits that she breathed a huge sigh of re­lief. She knows that Char-Lan is safe for at least five years, but knows that an­other call for clo­sure could come some­time in the fu­ture.

Ms. Flaro has plans to paint the boul­der at Sum­mer­stown and Glen Roads so the mes­sage reads, “SAVED CHAR-LAN.”

STEVEN WARBURTON PHOTO

CHAR- LAN CONTINGENCY: This group of Char-Lan District High School sup­port­ers at­tended the Up­per Canada District School Board meet­ing in Kemptville on Thursday, hop­ing that none of the trustees would sug­gest adding the Wil­liamstown school to the list of schools rec­om­mended for clo­sure. It wasn’t.

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