Massive school changes proposed by Upper Canada District School Board; North Dundas survives, Seaway does not

CHESTERVILLE — The Upper Canada District School Board will ponder the imminent closure of a dozen Eastern Ontario schools, effective the end of this school year, with potentially another 13 to come beyond that.

The proposed shutdowns would leave one public high school in Dundas County, with Seaway District High School in Iroquois getting the chop and North Dundas District High School at Maple Ridge spared the axe, according to a Sept. 25 “initial staff report” released on the board’s website in advance of its Sept. 28 meeting.

The report provides draft recommendations to trustees on proposed school closures, which would also involve public consultations and feedback as part of the “consolidation” process.

Students from Seaway District High School would end up going to North Dundas or South Grenville in Prescott.

The suggested changes would also see grades 7 to 12 at Ingleside’s Rothwell-Osnabruck School shifted to Cornwall Collegiate Vocational School. R-O would then take in the elementary students from Longue Sault Public School, which would be closed.

Iroquois and Morrisburg Public Schools would be temporarily closed and their student populations moved to the Seaway building, while Iroquois P.S. is expanded to accommodate elementary students from both Morrisburg and Iroquois.

Also suggested for shutdown at the end of this school year are:

Plantagenet Public School (shifted to Rockland Public School);

Benson Public School in Cardinal (shifted to South Edwardsburg School);

Char-Lan District High School (shifted to St. Lawrence District High School and C.C.V.S.)  

Glen Tay Public School (shifted to Queen Elizabeth School);

North Elmsley Public School (shifted to Chimo and The Stewart Schools);

Oxford-On-Rideau Public School (shifted to South Branch School);

Pakenham Public School (shifted to R.Tait McKenzie School);

Rideau Centennial Public School (shifted to South Crosby School);

Wolford Public School (shifted to Chimo and Merrickville Schools).

Tagwi Secondary School could also end up hosting students from Glengarry District High School, according to the report, which blames changes in provincial funding for the mass closure preparations.

“We have too much surplus classroom space in our schools,” says the report. “This is a challenge because the funding school boards receive from the Ontario Ministry of Education to operate and maintain schools is increasingly based upon the amount of physical school space required given student enrolments. Enrolment decline due to an aging population of ‘echo boom’ (children of the baby boom) students is a reality across Ontario.

“In Upper Canada, this demographic reality has had a profound impact on school enrolments. For example, in the past 10 years (2005 to 2015), elementary enrolments have declined by about 3500 students representing almost 17% of elementary enrolments as a whole. Similarly, secondary school enrolments over the past 10 years have declined by about 4000 students, or 30% of secondary enrolments as a whole. While the good news is that elementary enrolments have now stabilized, and that there are only several more years of secondary enrolment decline to come, the Upper Canada District School Board has significantly more small enrolment schools and more surplus space in schools overall than ten years ago. The amount of space needed by school boards is chiefly determined by enrolment compared to the physical space available in schools. Whereas the Ministry of Education used to provide additional financial support to school boards to account for the operation, maintenance and renewal of surplus space in schools, this is no longer the case.”

See the report.

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