Lo­cals plead with com­mit­tee to save Glen­garry schools

The Glengarry News - - The Opinion Page - News

BY STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON

Staff Brian Cad­dell drew a stand­ing ova­tion Mon­day evening af­ter urg­ing the Up­per Canada Dis­trict School Board to save both Maxville Pub­lic School and Glen­garry Dis­trict High School.

Mr. Cad­dell and Jeff Man­ley, two for­mer Glen­garry Dis­trict teach­ers who are now North Glen­garry Town­ship coun­cil­lors, made the last of 10 pre­sen­ta­tions dur­ing a meet­ing of the board’s ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view com­mit­tee ( ARC) at Gen­eral Vanier School in Corn­wall.

The pair spent much of their time talk­ing about how im­por­tant the schools are for North Glen­garry, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to eco­nomic growth.

“Growth in Alexan­dria and Maxville has been sti­fled for decades be­cause of two is­sues,” Mr. Man­ley said. “Pro­vid­ing mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter in Maxville and hav­ing an ad­e­quate sewer sys­tem in Alexan­dria.”

Mr. Man­ley added that the town­ship has been “closer than ever” in se­cur­ing this fund­ing from up­per gov­ern­ment lev­els and that it has even hired the Daisy Group (War­ren Kin­sella’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions firm) to make this pos­si­ble. He said that North Glen­garry is poised for mas­sive growth due to its prox­im­ity to Ot­tawa and Mon­tréal’s West Is­land, say­ing that many fam­i­lies from those ar­eas want to come to this re­gion so they can raise and ed­u­cate their chil­dren in a ru­ral set­ting.

Mr. Man­ley said that the town­ship’s plan­ning de­part­ment has re­ceived dozens of build­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for Alexan­dria and Maxville and has had to turn them down be­cause of lack of ca­pac­ity.

Now that it’s on the precipice of growth, Mr. Man­ley says the only miss­ing puzzle piece is the sta­tus of the two schools.

“If both schools are closed, North Glen­garry will have one pub­lic school [Lag­gan] serv­ing 12,000 res­i­dents,” he said. “Growth in North Glen­garry is growth of the Up­per Canada Dis­trict School Board.”

Mr. Cad­dell spent his time talk­ing about On­tario Min­is­ter of Ed­u­ca­tion Mitzie Hunter’s whirl­wind visit to Glen­garry two weeks ago, when she vis­ited GDHS and Char- Lan Dis­trict High School. He pointed out that when asked how she in­tended to re­spond to the con­cerns brought to her from com­mu­nity mem­bers, “per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, the min­is­ter re­sponded ex­clu­sively to all ques­tions that she would trust in the school board to make the best de­ci­sions re­gard­ing pro­gram­ming for the stu­dents.”

Mr. Cad­dell said this re­sponse was de­signed to save money for the prov­ince. He added that stu­dents in Maxville and GD don’t have any pro­gram­ming is­sues and that GD grad­u­ates are do­ing quite well.

He ended his pre­sen­ta­tion by urg­ing the school board to put peo­ple ahead of dol­lars. “This will be your legacy,” he urged.

The evening’s very first pre­sen­ta­tion – made by Maxville Cham­ber of Com­merce rep­re­sen­ta­tive Loretta Landmesser and by Maxville Pub­lic School par­ent coun­cil di­rec­tor Gina Dragone and her daugh­ter, Grade 3 Maxville stu­dent Is­abella Bayne – pre­sented a four-point plan to help save Maxville Pub­lic. The strat­egy in­volves de­mol­ish­ing an ex­tra­ne­ous part of the school (which would bring the build­ing’s ca­pac­ity from 300 to 169 pupils), in­cor­po­rat­ing French im­mer­sion, pro­vid­ing child care ser­vices (there are 36 chil­dren in im­me­di­ate need of this) and by restor­ing bound­aries in or­der to bring in stu­dents from St-Isi­dore (oth­er­wise these kids would need to go to Rox­more, which is 50 km away).

Ms. Landmesser’s pre­sen­ta­tion dove­tailed with Mr. Man­ley’s com­ments when she spoke about North Glen­garry’s on­go­ing quest to bring wa­ter and an up­graded sewage sys­tem into the town­ship.

“Clos­ing these schools could jeop­ar­dize the grant ap­pli­ca­tion,” she said. “Why would the gov­ern­ment grant that to a com­mu­nity with no schools?”

Later, Sally Booth and Alyson Gra­ham made a pre­sen­ta­tion called Ed­u­ca­tion Beyond the Walls, which cham­pi­oned Glen­garry Dis­trict High School as be­ing an ideal school to live up to var­i­ous ob­jec­tives put forth by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion.

Af­ter point­ing out the im­por­tance of ex­pe­ri­en­tial learn­ing, co- op op­por­tu­ni­ties, and French lan­guage im­mer­sion, the two stressed that Alexan­dria is a great place to ac­com­plish all of these ob­jec­tives. The school’s prox­im­ity to var­i­ous co-op em­ploy­ers cou­pled with its strong bilin­gual his­tory and its rel­a­tively ru­ral set­ting are all unique to the area. The two pointed out that these would not be avail­able if stu­dents were to be trans­ferred to Tagwi or Van­kleek Hill.

Char- Lan Dis­trict High School also had its fair share of sup­port­ers at the meet­ing. In­deed, there were nearly four rows of gold- and- blue clad sup­port­ers cheer­ing on var­i­ous del­e­ga­tions.

Todd Ro­zon and Tara McRae, both mem­bers of Char-Lan’s class of 1989, drew ap­plause when they talked about the strong his­tory of the school. The two pre­sented lo­cal sur­vey re­sults which showed that if the UCDSB goes ahead with its pro­posal (which in­volves clos­ing Char- Lan Dis­trict High School and even­tu­ally ren­o­vat­ing Wil­liamstown Pub­lic) that 82 per cent of Wil­liamstown Pub­lic par­ents would move their chil­dren to coter­mi­nous boards. At the Char-Lan level, that fig­ure rises to 84 per cent.

As an al­ter­na­tive to clo­sure, the pair cham­pi­oned a K-12 model for Char-Lan (see re­lated story on page 5).

Tara McArthur and Ian MacMil­lan, also for­mer CharLan grad­u­ates, spent much of their time trum­pet­ing the school’s suc­cess and how it’s cur­rently beat­ing pro­vin­cial and board av­er­ages in a num­ber of cat­e­gories. An ex­am­ple: Over the past five years, CharLan en­joyed a grad­u­a­tion rate of more than 90 per cent. At the pro­vin­cial and board lev­els, that rate was un­der 85 per cent.

They also talked about the school’s High Skills Ma­jor pro­grams – in Heath and Well­ness and in Agri­cul­ture – and how they have pro­duced a higher than av­er­age num­ber of “red seal stu­dents.” In Char-Lan’s case, 32 per cent of last year’s grad­u­at­ing class held that dis­tinc­tion.

The two ended their pre­sen­ta­tion by talk­ing about Char-Lan’s fu­ture and how tech­nol­ogy might en­able it, and other small schools, to em­brace the con­cept of “vir­tual class­rooms.”

On a more broad level, Dr. Claude Mani­gat (a psy­chi­a­trist) and Dr. Anna Wil­liams (a der­ma­tol­o­gist) spoke about the un­spo­ken ben­e­fits of smaller schools. The two painted a pic­ture about how longer bus rides and mov­ing stu­dents into larger schools can have a domino ef­fect on stu­dents’ over­all health.

Dr. Wil­liams said that the longer a stu­dent is on a bus, the more time they will spend be­ing in­ac­tive. She added that bore­dom on the bus can prompt neg­a­tive so­cial in­ter­ac­tion that bus driv­ers would have a great deal of dif­fi­culty keep­ing un­der con­trol.

The pair main­tained that smaller schools are bet­ter be­cause they fos­ter a sense of be­long­ing and also, in a round­about way, en­cour­age stu­dents to be more ac­tive. They noted that when you close down five schools, you also close down five soc­cer teams. The stu­dents who for­mally played might find it dif­fi­cult to se­cure a spot on the big­ger school’s more elite soc­cer team.

The ARC will present its find­ings to the UCDSB, which will use it to pre­pare a fi­nal staff re­port, which will be pre­sented on Feb. 15. A fi­nal de­ci­sion will be made on March 23.

STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON PHOTO

ROB­BIE BURNS DAY: John Wylie of Van­kleek Hill gets some point­ers on hag­gis toss­ing from Helen Kauf­man, also of Van­kleek Hill, at the Robert­son-Clark build­ing in Dalkeith on Satur­day morn­ing. The event was a Rob­bie Burns Day cel­e­bra­tion that also...

STEVEN WAR­BUR­TON PHOTO

CLASS OF 1989: Tara McRae and Todd Ro­zon, both mem­bers of Char-Lan Dis­trict High School’s grad­u­at­ing class of 1989, fought to keep their old school from clos­ing at an ac­com­mo­da­tion re­view com­mit­tee in Corn­wall on Mon­day evening.

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