Nation Valley News
ST-ALBERT — Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne says she urges the Upper Canada District School Board to work with its Catholic and French counterpart boards as a means of dealing with excess school capacity.
With the equivalent of 10,000 empty student spaces on its hands, the board has embarked this fall on a review process that could ultimately lead to the eventual closure of up to 29 Eastern Ontario schools, starting with an initial 13 this spring.
Questioned by Nation Valley News as she made an Oct. 13 stop at the St-Albert Cheese factory, the premier was aware of the plight of the Upper Canada District School Board and what it generally proposes to do. She deflected the allegation that a change in provincial funding is to blame for the measures now being contemplated by the board.
“We’ve worked for years to put in place support for rural schools where there’s been declining enrollment,” said Wynne, after meeting with the mayors of Prescott-Russell inside the cheese factory. “The funding formula has supported those schools. But every school board has to determine how to deliver the best education to their students.”
The premier expressed “hope” that the Upper Canada District School Board “will work with the French public board, with the French Catholic board, and with the English Catholic board. They’ll determine how they can work together, and also that they will work with the municipality.”
“There are many opportunities for public entities to work together, and my fear is that sometimes those conversations don’t happen, even though there’s a policy guideline for school boards that says they must work with … municipalities. So I’m going to be encouraging boards to work together, not just in Eastern Ontario, but across the province.”
The Wynne government granted $1-million to the St-Albert Cheese factory a couple of years ago, following the devastating fire that destroyed the original plant. The premier said she was “thrilled” to see the result of that investment. “This is a really important business for Eastern Ontario,” she said.
Wynne was also due to make a funding announcement at a Plantagenet business later that day.
The full recording of the premier’s comments on the school closure issue comprises part of the video below.