Further urban-rural divide foreseen if school closure plan proceeds

CHESTERVILLE — The divide between rural and urban people will only worsen if the Upper Canada District School Board proceeds with the proposed closure of numerous Eastern Ontario schools, the Dundas Federation of Agriculture heard at its Oct. 5 meeting.

Crop and beef farmer Arden Schneckenburger of Morrisburg, respected long-time member of the organization, observed that the board was effectively proposing to segregate rural and urban students when rearranging the student population into fewer schools. And Highway 401 will become the demarcation line between those two groups, he argued.

Referring to the proposed closure of Seaway District High School in Iroquois, Schneckenburger remarked, “Any [Seaway] students south of the 401 will go to Prescott,” he said. But their more rural counterparts, currently attending the mixed population at Seaway, will end up North Dundas District High School, reinforcing its rural character. In effect, the town kids will be isolated from their rural counterparts to a greater degree, he suggested, adding this didn’t bode well for the future of agriculture. “We already have enough ‘not in my back yard stuff,’” said Schneckenburger.

The Upper Canada District School Board recently proposed the closure of up to 16 schools in a first round, to take effect at the end of this school year, as the system grapples with 10,000 empty student spaces.

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