After attending several community meetings regarding the Upper Canada District School Board’s proposed School closures, I felt compelled to write. Understandably we live in tricky financial times where difficult decisions must be made. What I am failing to see is a purposed plan that is well thought out to include the needs (not even the wants) of the rural communities in SD&G. What we need are schools that can offer a strong foundation for our children’s learning path. We need our children to be able to participate in sports (both before and after school), have job experience from a part-time job that is close to home, have community involvement and recognition (i.e. knowing your neighbours and leaders), all of these things are vital. This plan is suggesting having buses filled with high schoolers travel not only outside of South Dundas but outside of SD&G for high school, essentially robbing them of these experiences and connections. It is also contradicting the trend to actively reduce our carbon footprint by essentially forcing rural residents to greatly increase the time and distance they spend in a vehicle.
What I would like to know is; why are the schools in Prescott not amalgamating with Brockville? It’s a short distance to a city that can offer much of what I’ve mentioned above to the Prescott students. Why would the board not look at making sure that each municipality has at least one elementary and secondary school? There is talk of building “super schools” with capital money. As far as I’m concerned we have an original super school right next door in South Stormont. Rothwell Osnabruck should serve as an example of what a rural school should be. Want to talk about cost savings? Think about one set of janitorial staff, one yard (parking lot etc.) to maintain, 2 principals instead of 3. 1 library, the list goes on and on. Instead of reinventing the wheel, look at what’s working and expand on it. South Dundas could easily fill a school like this in either Morrisburg or Iroquois. We would be able to maintain the sense of community that is the reason why people actively choose to live in a small town.
The loss of any school is traumatic, both for the kids who call it their second home, for the teachers that are the heart of the school and for the community that embraced it as part of their landscape. My family moved to Morrisburg in July because we wanted our four-year-old daughter to live near her school and have the sense of community that we were missing in the country. I am absolutely furious at the procedures that the board has in place to take this away from our family and make these decisions in such a sterile, uninformed and uncaring manner. As the process unfolds I am equally furious at how the school staff were informed, how the local trustee and board staff are responding to questions from parents with arrogance and dismissal. And how it seems some in the community have given up and are accepting the decision. Questions need to be answered! Will future economic development be impeded? Will housing prices drop? What will the level of safety and quality of education be for our children?
And one last question; why is the School Board purposely and proactively setting up the rural communities, its residents and its children to fail??