Tagwi on the bubble?
North Stormont’s economy could lose anywhere from $1.6 million to $9.1 million if the Upper Canada District School Board proceeds with its school closure plan.
The dire scenario was presented to township council by Doyletch Corporation, a Nepean-based company that studied the economic fallout from the proposed closure of North Stormont Public School in Berwick and the feared shutdown of Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore.
As part of its proposal to close 29 schools,
the Upper Canada District School Board is looking at closing North Stormont Public and consolidating it with Roxmore Public in Avonmore.
But there is concern that Tagwi’s future is also bleak, considering that the high school would lose one-third of its enrolment if the UCDSB draft recommendations are implemented.
“Using realistic assumptions, the economic loss to North Stormont from the prospective school closures is very large. The hit could range from $1.6 million to as much as $9.1 million if the local high school becomes vulnerable to closure due to falling enrolment,” the Doyletech document warns.
“The largest component of any potential economic loss comes from the prospective closing of Tagwi Secondary School because of its strong links to the local economy. Its loss would be felt increasingly in the years to come as local businesses would find getting staff progressively more difficult and business investment and growth suffer as a result. In sum, the impact of the proposed school closings will be to exacerbate the “hollowing out effect ” in this rural area.”
In literature distributed to area residents, the Tagwi school council says it “believes that the proposed boundary re-alignments fulfill a political mandate, at the expense of Tagwi and other rural schools, for the UCDSB to fill both Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational Institute and St. Lawrence Secondary School to capacity to obtain funding for a new Cornwall intermediate/secondary ‘mega’ school.”
The “Protect Our Boundaries” committee suspects that the loss of students “will lead to an eventual proposal to consider the closure of Tagwi.” According to the draft plan approved by the board in September, students from Glengarry District High School in Alexandria would be closed and GDHS students transported to Tagwi and Vankleek Hill Collegiate Institute. Maxville Public would be consolidated with Laggan Public and Roxmore Public in Avonmore.
The moves would have a longterm widespread adverse effect on the region, closure opponents stress. Although Tagwi’s enrolment would be bolstered by the addition of GDHS students. “But this is not assured,” the study cautions. “A critical issue with Tagwi Secondary School is boundaries. At present Tagwi has a mandate to include students coming from South Stormont as well as North Stormont, in respect of French Immersion programming, and key trades (shops) programming,” the consultants note.
The plan is to transfer 167 of the approximately 500 Tagwi students to Cornwall. Should GDHS be salvaged, Tagwi will be reduced to 333 students.
“This could be below utilization benchmarks, prompting possible closure consideration.”
Very large hit
The closure of Tagwi would cause the loss of 22 full-time jobs in North Stormont and a spending decrease of $9.1 million. “This is a very large economic hit for the local community to absorb,” Doyletech points out. The net municipal government decrease would be $57,000.
This reflects decreased property tax collections, and multipliers from indirect spending lost.
The net provincial government decrease would be $1.04 million and the federal government would lose $1.06 million as a result of lower tax collections.
The closure of North Stormont P.S. would cost five full-time jobs, and a spending decrease of $1.6 million.
As The News reported January 11, closing Glengarry District High School and Maxville Public School could cost North Glengarry nearly $8.5 million.
According to the draft closure plan adopted in September, S. J. McLeod in Bainsville would be consolidated with Williamstown Public which would move into the nearby Char- Lan District High School, whose students would be bused to St. Lawrence Secondary School.
Laggan Public School would be retained as a kindergarten to grade 6 school.
February 15, trustees will receive a final staff report on the closure plan.
Delegations will be able to make their final presentations at a special meeting March 2 at its head office in Brockville.
A final decision will be made March 23.
The board says it must take these measures because it has more than 9,800 surplus pupil spaces, which are no longer directly funded by the Ministry of Education.
Well-being at risk
In its bulletin, the Tagwi school council also expresses concern about the intangible ramifications of the proposals.
“Closing rural schools equals putting the mental health and physical well-being of our youth at risk,” the council states.
The loss of schools would be the “destruction of a distinct rural community/ culture” and of a “academic and extracurricular opportunities for rural students.”