Tagwi on the bub­ble?

The Glengarry News - - Front Page -

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.”

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