‘ Ru­ral schools are no longer vi­able’

The Glengarry News - - Front Page -

“The ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem as we know it to­day, will not be sus­tain­able in the fu­ture.”

That stark warn­ing was de­liv­ered by Stor­mont-Dun­das-Glen­garry rep­re­sen­ta­tives to On­tario Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Lisa Thomp­son re­cently.

The prov­ince and lo­cal school boards need to do more to sup­port stu­dents and schools in ru­ral ar­eas, SDG War­den and North Glen­garry Mayor Jamie Mac­Don­ald told the min­is­ter dur­ing a meet­ing at the Ru­ral On­tario Mu­nic­i­pal As­so­ci­a­tion con­fer­ence.

“The ex­ist­ing poli­cies do not put the needs of stu­dents first. The pre­vi­ous govern­ment's ‘big­ger is bet­ter’ fo­cus has had a se­ri­ous neg­a­tive im­pact on our stu­dents. The ele­phant in the room re­mains the fact that there are too many pub­licly funded school boards in On­tario. While that is not the topic of con­ver­sa­tion for to­day, we im­plore the govern­ment to be­gin a process to tackle this is­sue,” said Mr. Mac­Don­ald.

The del­e­gates urged the min­is­ter to take the steps needed to de­velop a ru­ral ed­u­ca­tion strat­egy which aims to im­prove both the Pro­gram and Ac­com­mo­da­tion Re­view (PAR) and the Com­mu­nity Plan­ning and Part­ner­ship Guide­lines (CPPG).

“This re­view needs to rec­og­nize the unique chal­lenges faced by lo­cal schools and it needs to pro­mote and en­hance these schools,” ar­gued the SDG del­e­ga­tion.

The group fur­ther rec­om­mended that the Pupil Ac­com­mo­da­tion Re­view (PAR) ac­count for the com­mu­nity and eco­nomic im­pact re­lated to any pro­posed school clo­sures, and asked that Min­is­ter Thomp­son main­tain the cur­rent mora­to­rium on school clo­sures un­til new pro­cesses can be de­vel­oped and im­ple­mented.

Stor­mont, Dun­das and Glen­garry is cur­rently served by four school boards. “All four boards are com­pet­ing for the same stu­dent and pub­lic funds are be­ing used to ad­ver­tise for that same stu­dent to at­tend half-empty schools, which are strug­gling to re­main open,” the del­e­ga­tion’s state­ment reads.

“The re­moval in 2015 of the ne­ces­sity to con­sider the com­mu­nity and eco­nomic im­pacts of school clo­sures was mis­guided. We rec­om­mend that guide­lines and reg­u­la­tions be put in place de­scrib­ing the ex­act process that school boards must fol­low when de­ter­min­ing the im­pact school clo­sures will have on ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties,” said Mr. Mac­Don­ald.

He added that these guide­lines should not be viewed as a re­quire­ment to pre­vent school clo­sures, but rather as a strat­egy to en­sure that com­mu­nity part­ners are con­sid­ered in de­ci­sions that will have broader, re­sound­ing im­pacts.

Bet­ter plan­ning and co­or­di­na­tion among and be­tween the var­i­ous school boards are also es­sen­tial, ac­cord­ing to the del­e­gates.

“The first step shouldn't be to close schools. Prior to clos­ing a school, each school board should be re­quired to clearly demon­strate that they have con­sid­ered all op­tions for hous­ing stu­dents, in­clud­ing shar­ing ex­ist­ing, un­der­uti­lized schools,” the del­e­ga­tion con­tended.

“In our area, there have been his­tor­i­cal ex­am­ples where school boards have shared fa­cil­i­ties. Based on the num­ber of shared fa­cil­i­ties across the prov­ince, this is clearly not an op­tion which school boards are pur­su­ing,” com­mented Mr. Mac­Don­ald.

The del­e­ga­tion main­tained that no cap­i­tal fund­ing should be pro­vided for new schools un­til is has been demon­strated that there are no vi­able op­tions to share ex­ist­ing school fa­cil­i­ties.

Pre-con­sul­ta­tion with stake­hold­ers should be manda­tory dur­ing the ini­tial staff re­port and trus­tees need a stronger role in the process, the group stated.

”The meet­ing with Min­is­ter Thomp­son was an en­cour­ag­ing step in this process. The Min­is­ter has agreed to work with the County and Town­ship to study the chal­lenges in our re­gion. It's an is­sue that has re­sound­ing com­mu­nity ef­fects. The Town­ship of North Glen­garry and the County of Stor­mont, Dun­das and Glen­garry re­main com­mit­ted to en­sur­ing that ed­u­ca­tion re­mains a pri­or­ity,” the state­ment reads.

Mr. Mac­Don­ald was ac­com­pa­nied by North Glen­garry's Deputy Mayor Carma Williams, North Glen­garry Coun­cil­lors Brenda No­ble, Jeff Manley and Jo­hanne Wensink, North Glen­garry CAO Sarah Huskin­son, United Coun­ties of Stor­mont, Dun­das and Glen­garry CAO Tim Simp­son, South Glen­garry Coun­cil­lor Stephanie Ja­worski and MPP Jim Mc­Donell.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.