CORNWALL ONTARIO – Locally people are fighting to save their local schools, especially in rural areas like South Glengarry, where the people supporting Char-Lan are putting up a great battle including the video below shot by students Lloyd Rozon, and Harry Tieman.
The group has also created a facebook page for news and support!
Here is a release that CFN received today for publication as people across the province are fighting school closures:
Province-wide school closures seen as war on Ontario communities
A group representing concerned citizens from across Ontario, the Ontario Alliance Against School Closures (OAASC), is calling on the Ministry of Education to immediately halt school closures and scrap the current Pupil Accommodation Guideline.
In its open letter to Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, the OAASC outlines a few recommendations in response to what it sees as the largest and fastest school closure sweep in Ontario’s history. They include:
- that the recently revised PARG (Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline) is flawed and must be rewritten
- that ARC reviews be immediately suspended until a democratic guideline is in place
- that the Government of Ontario immediately put a moratorium on school closures
- that the Government of Ontario commission a study to determine the effects of extensive school closures on the health of our children and our communities.
OAASC spokesperson Susan MacKenzie says Ontarians are concerned about the closures being initiated under the new guideline, which threaten to shutter 1 in every 8 schools across their communities .
“Last March, when the Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline was rewritten, communities lost a significant voice at the table giving school boards the freedom to ram these school closures through without resistance,” MacKenzie says. “Community schools are under siege, carried by this tidal wave of closures across the province,” she says.” The revised guideline has pitted the province and school boards against our communities”
The OAASC members representing various school districts are also circulating a letter to media outlets across Ontario to call on the Ministry of Education to put a halt to the drastic policy measures that are hurting students and school communities.
The group has stated that closing schools is a short-term money-saving move that is particularly harsh on communities outside the GTA where schools are social and economic generators for the area, and often with historical importance to the community. It also appears that school closures are unreasonably disenfranchising children in rural and northern regions. For example, in Sudbury, closing schools is creating such severe transportation problems that students are facing a four to five-hour return trip every day. In these communities, some students board the bus at 6:40 am and get home at 6:30 pm.
“We’re paying a steep price for cuts in education. It is time to see beyond the boundaries of Toronto and the GTA,” MacKenzie says. ” Kathleen Wynne needs to realize that she is Premier of the province of Ontario, not premier of Toronto.”
The group calls on the Ministry of Education and the provincial government to make policies congruent with the needs and socio-economic conditions in communities across the province. They are making plans to take their fight to Queen’s Park in November to further voice their concerns and call for action.
For more information contact:
Susan MacKenzie (media relation/ spokesperson) 519-332-2765 (Sarnia)
Amy Austin (media contact) 705-970 2556 (Barrie)
Diane Ferguson (media contact) 519-794-3331 (Wiiliamsford)
Open Letter to Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter:
October 25, 2016
The Honorable Minister of Education, Mitzie Hunter,
Ministry of Education, 22nd Floor Mowat Block,
900 Bay Street, Toronto Ontario, M7A 1L2
Re: The Impact of the revised Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline (PARG) on communities
We are writing to express our deep disappointment with the accelerated school closures sweeping the province and to express our concerns with the revised Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline (PARG),a process which, in practice, has been undemocratic and insensitive to both the health of our communities and the needs of our students.
The disaster on the educational landscape of Ontario is the result of hasty and ill-conceived school closure decisions now occurring province-wide. These fast-tracked school closures leave no room for thoughtful and wise consideration of the social and economic effects of closing the only “community hub” in a rural or fragile neighbourhood setting. There is no consideration of the health of the child who now may be forced to spend as much as four to five hours a day riding a bus, no consideration of severely reduced extra-curricular sports and clubs available when schools disappear, and no consideration of the history or heritage that a school represents and what it means to its community. In many towns and cities, schools with important historic meaning such as KCVI in Kingston, Canada’s oldest publicly-funded high school, is slated for closure, as is BCCI in Barrie, SCITS in Sarnia, BCHS in Burlington, and the OSCVI in Owen Sound . The majority of these are core downtown schools and some in fragile neighbourhoods which are devastated by destructive and permanent decisions that bypass community and local economic considerations.
The revised Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline document put in place by the Ministry in March 2015, has resulted in a process which has given the tools to boards of education across Ontario to manipulate the consultation process. A process which is intended to ensure early and ongoing consultation has, in fact, resulted in the erosion of dialogue with constituents and local governments. Prior to the March 2015 changes to the Accommodation Review Guideline, school boards were required to prove that their decisions showed: i) value to the student, ii) value to the board, iii) value to the community and iv) value to the local economy.
Since then, however, the last two “values” have been quietly removed from the guideline. The effect has been to strip meaningful consultation from the process and to accelerate school closings without the courtesy of engaging with the people whom it directly affects -parents, students, local governments and local businesses. Ontarians have lost the democratic right of citizens to have a voice in the decisions that affect the education of their children, the survival of their schools and the health of their communities.
With this disastrous revised PARG, the Ontario Ministry of Education has created a mechanism which enables boards across Ontario to fast-track and escalate school closures. The new PARG has slammed the door in the faces of the stakeholders who no longer have a voice at the table. Our communities are centres in which schools play a vital and often pivotal role. Removing schools, without determining the “value” to the community has created the kind of “hollowing out” that occurred 30-40 years ago as factories disappeared across our towns and cities. We cannot continue to lose major social and economic contributors in our communities without careful deliberation.
The current government is doing damage beyond repair.
We, the undersigned groups and organizations, represent citizens across Ontario who believe that the revised PARG process is deeply flawed. We call attention to the catastrophic failure of a policy which allows boards to manipulate weak and poorly defined consultation requirements. In every case, we have been assured that our boards are in compliance with government policy. It is clear, therefore, that the rules themselves are the problem. We ask that you, Ms. Hunter, recognize the failings of the revised PARG in its effective elimination of any meaningful, public involvement, and we ask that changes be made immediately to improve the democratic engagement of our communities in decisions that so seriously affect them.
We believe that the revised PARG process has created extreme inequities and hardships and request that it be subject to a substantive review by an all-party committee in the Ontario Legislature and that, until a new process is in place, we call on the Government of Ontario to immediately place a moratorium on school closures, suspend ARC reviews and commission a study to investigate and determine the effects of extensive school closures on the health of our children and our communities.
Judy Keeling for Save OSCVI, Owen Sound, ON. , Bluewater District School Board
Andrew Leggett, for Save BCCI, Barrie, ON., Simcoe County District School Board
Susan McKenzie, for Save SCITS Sarnia, ON. ,Lambton-Kent District School Board
Brigitte Knapp, for Old Glen Ridge Community Association- St. Catharines, ON., District School Board of Niagara
Robin Ridesic, for Citizens for Accountable and Responsible Education, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON, DSBN
Christine Sypnowich for Save KCVI, Kingston, ON, Limestone District School Board
Doug Reycraft, chair, Community Schools Alliance, Glencoe
Anita Gibson for Friends of Long Lake Public School, Sudbury, ON, Rainbow District School Board
Felicia Fahey for Save Our Schools, Valley North, Sudbury , ON, Rainbow District School Board
Dania Thurmann for Save BCHS, Burlington, ON, Halton District School Board
Ontario Alliance Against School Closures
There’s a Rally heading to Queen’s Park on November 16th to protest the closures!
Seats will be available on the buses.
Shawn McRae of Bainsville wrote a passionate and strong letter to the UCDSB Trustees & Staff as well:
|Open Letter To The Upper Canada District School Board: Trustees and Senior Staff
16 October, 2016
My name is Shawn McRae and I have been selected by my peers, fellow parents of SJ McLeod students, to represent them as a member of the #2 Accommodation Review Committee. My wife Tara and I have four children; two go to Char-Lan High School and two attend SJ McLeod. I am responding to your request for public input.
Our Province once respected Rural Ontario as a necessary economic powerhouse, a generator of raw materials that feed urban manufacturing and retail industries, a provider of export revenues, and a supplier of produce for domestic consumption. Therefore, governments of the past did not begrudge the relatively high per capita cost of infrastructure in rural regions; our roads, railroads, power grids, telegraph and telephone lines, petroleum pipelines, and yes, hospitals and schools for rural citizens. This tradition is on the wane as urban-centric sentiment pervades Queen’s Park politics (ie. check your rural Hydro bill for increased delivery charges). I understand the financial pressures being applied to the UCDSB budget, despite continual increases in overall Ministry of Education spending (1). I also appreciate that you’re working for the Board because you want what’s best for the citizenry of our region, and our children.
With all of this in mind, I’ve reviewed the research compiled by the UCDSB staff, and I’ve witnessed the public backlash against the recommended Option 3. I’m not going to belly-ache about the fact that the SJ McLeod school, my own alma mater, built upon land provided by my grandmother’s family, will be mothballed even though it is in great condition and was emptied out by an unequally-applied French immersion policy. Its impending closure saddens me because my children, like me, have received an excellent education there, most particularly my disabled daughter Molly, but our family will adapt. The major problem with Option 3 is the closing of Char-Lan High School. That’s a deal breaker for parents and a dead end street for the Board.
Our community is able to perceive that there’s a “cui bono” aspect to this; a concomitant power play that requires ripping hundreds of grade 7-12 students out of their rural region to accommodate a desire to fund the construction of an urban mega-high-school for Cornwall. Only this can explain a rationale that would “provide the Board with the financial advantages associated with consolidating [schools] to commit to longer term facility needs for this feeder group of schools overall” (2). It would seem then, that the ARC parent/community input process is nothing more than window dressing on a predetermined outcome. I spent five years on a Source Water Protection Committee in an attempt to protect farmers from regulatory takings, and I’m not fooled by the illusion of a “public consultation” process.
There’s one thing I know for sure. If the Board were to vote in favour of Option 3 which would transship our rural students into Cornwall, our area families will transfer their children to an alternate Board. Recent polling has shown this intent to be running at 82% with roughly half of parents responding to date (3). Indeed, many transfers are already underway. Please don’t doubt the sincerity and commitment of these respondents.
With respect to Option 1, Char-Lan H.S. and Williamstown P.S. can be combined into a K-12 campus. Char-Lan and SJ McLeod can accommodate students while necessary renovations/additions at Williamstown P.S. take place. There’s even potential for fundraising within the community to help this plan move forward. Personally, I would much rather contribute to a construction fund for Williamstown, as opposed to a mutually destructive legal battle with the Board.
My time is precious to me, my family, and my business, but I am willing to expend it upon this endeavor as an ARC member. I present myself to you as a liaison between the Board staff/trustees, and my community. Trustees might feel that it is a mistake for them to be influenced by public sentiment; that they must adhere to the process and ignore the protest. I would argue that triggering a mass exodus of students to another Board and permanently damaging the demographics of a vast region will counterproductively reduce funding from the Ministry of Education and further impair the Board’s explicit viability objectives.
Citizens of South Glengarry require a concrete commitment right now that K to 12 facilities will remain in Williamstown. If you provide that, you will stop the student transfers; you will stop the legal battle before it begins; you will stop the rallies and public protests, and our powerful community spirit and fundraising potential can be put to positive use. The time for this commitment is now, not in March 2017. I will participate in the ARC process to help fine-tune a viable plan, but the prospect of removing rural South Glengarry students from their community must be eliminated, and parents, grandparents and students must be assured of that, right away.
(1) Understanding the Increases in Education Spending in Public Schools in Canada, 2016 Edition. Barbara Mitchell Centre for Improvement in Education, Fraser Institute
(2) 2016-17 Building for the Future Pupil Accomodation Review: Initial Staff Report to the Board of Trustees (Draft). Appendix A9, p.106. The Upper Canada District School Board. 28 September, 2016. http://www.ucdsb.on.ca/programs/accomodationreview
(3) Public Meeting. Char-Lan High School. 13 October, 2016.
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