Board backs recommendation to close two elementary schools
Public school board trustees backed a staff recommendation to close two elementary schools despite a months-long outcry from the community against the move.
Fessenden and Queen’s Rangers elementary schools are suggested for shuttering, and it’s recommended that C.H. Bray and Rousseau elementary schools be rebuilt on their current sites.
The decision, which will now be put forward to the Ministry of Education, came Monday night after a six-month accommodation review process that included five schools.
“Tonight’s decisions are extremely difficult,” said trustee Alex Johnstone, who represents the affected area.
Parents from Queen’s Rangers in Copetown, who attended Monday’s meeting wearing red shirts and holding signs, have argued that maintaining the school’s rural identity is key for the community.
But Johnstone argued trustees had to look at the bigger picture.
“If we retain Queen’s Rangers, it will have an impact on the rest of the community,” she said.
Most notably, it affects the business case to the ministry for two new schools, she added.
Johnstone said she was not convinced keeping the school open was “the best model for student learning and achievement.”
Currently the school’s population is less than 130 students. The board’s ideal population target for a JK to Grade 8 school is 500, said director of education Manny Figueiredo.
The board believes a greater number of students allows for more diverse programming — both inclass and extracurricular activities — and makes staffing options easier, he said.
Parents approached after the meeting declined to comment.
Not all trustees supported the decision, including Larry Pattison, who represents Ward 3. He said he wanted to see Queen’s Rangers remain open because of his personal belief in “community schools.”
“I would like to see us find a solution to keep this school as it is,” while backing the rest of the recommendations made, he said.
The recommendations also include an addition being put on Ancaster Senior Elementary School to make it a JK to Grade 8 school.
A new French Immersion program will be implemented at Rousseau once the rebuild is done. It’s recommended a boundary review for this be conducted.
Staff also recommends a boundary review be completed in June between Queen’s Rangers and the new school to be built on the Beverly Community Centre.
The recommendation also suggested the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board communicate with the City of Hamilton and other partners about how to reuse community property to benefit the local areas.
The Ancaster review is among several cluster reviews being conducted to attract more provincial funding for new schools by reducing the number of empty seats in existing schools.
Next steps include staff coming up with business cases to put before the Ministry of Education for funding.