A full range of emotions was felt last Thursday when the Upper Canada District School Board voted to close three area English-language public schools.
S.J. McLeod Public School in Bainsville will be shut and merged with an expanded Williamstown P.S. North Stormont Public in Berwick will be consolidated with Roxmore Public in Avonmore while RothwellOsnabruck School (secondary grades 7-12) in Ingleside will be closed and consolidated with Tagwi S.S. in Avonmore.
Glengarry District High School in Alexandria, Char-Lan District High School in Williamstown and Maxville Public will remain open.
The ratification of the measures ended six months of uncertainty. Communities have been rallying to save their schools since a preliminary closure list was approved by the board in September.
A staff report released February 13 called for the retention of four of five Glengarry schools that had been earmarked for closure in September.
Salvaging S.J. McLeod had been a long shot; 19 pupils attend the school that has space for 187.
At the same time, there is a sense that the school closure debate is far from over.
The board undertook the study in an effort to deal with 10,000 surplus spaces which are no longer funded by the province.
With the closures and consolidations, the board would fill 2,358 empty seats.
Area residents had become part of a province-wide campaign to save rural schools.
Many point the finger of blame at Queen’s Park.
Said Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry Conservative MPP Jim McDonell: “I was very disappointed to see the decision to close R-O secondary, North Stormont Public and SJ McLeod schools. Like the hundreds of other closures across the province, their demise was not a result of poor performance, but to cuts in education funding and changes in regulations put in place by this government that gave school boards few options. I want to commend the parents, community leaders and the public who stepped up and put in the countless hours required by this flawed process. This is the second round of school closures in under ten years, and more will come if we don’t review how all government services are delivered, including education, outside of the major centres. We debated such a motion just a few weeks ago, and while the government talked of supporting rural schools, at the end of the debate, they voted against them.”
WHEW!: After six months of angst, most Glengarrians were heaving sighs of relief last week.