Nation Valley News
EASTERN ONTARIO — The final ‘Building for the Future’ school closure report has been written and put into the hands of Upper Canada District School Board trustees.
“It’s going to make some people happy and some people unhappy,” trustee Bill MacPherson of Smiths Falls told Nation Valley News.
“They are closing some schools, but the list is shorter than it was,” he said.
However, he predicted “some opposition” and “tears” when the report becomes public next week.
The report — containing final recommendations from superintendents after a series of public “accommodation review” consultations through the end of January — is otherwise set for general release online this Monday, Feb. 13. The UCDSB will also discuss the document during a Feb. 15 public meeting that starts 6:30 p.m. at North Grenville District High School in Kemptville.
“I do have the report. I’ve read it, and I understand it, and it goes to the public on Monday, and trustees requested that we have it far enough in advance that we understood it before people start calling us for opinions and things like that,” said MacPherson, adding that he and his colleagues received access to the report yesterday. They wanted more advance time to digest its recommendations compared to the release of the September initial staff report, he said.
“I think the public will be relatively receptive of it,” the trustee said. “I’m pleasantly surprised by the report.”
He added the document has “proven the value of the ARC process” in his opinion.
Noting the pledges made by the Municipality of South Dundas and industry partners in a bid to save Seaway District High School, MacPherson observed, “When this is all settled, I’d like to collect on those promises.”
“We have to start building community partnerships.”
Asked to clarify if he was suggesting South Dundas should now expect to deliver on its proposals — as a result of what’s in the final report — the trustee said the public and media must wait for the report’s release on Feb. 13. He reiterated, “I think that, honestly, the public will be pleasantly surprised. It’s going to be proven that the ARC process had some value.”
The precursor “Initial Staff Report” shocked the region last September with the proposed closure of 29 Eastern Ontario schools. The UCDSB has been challenged by declining enrolment — equivalent to 10,000 excess student spaces — and the province’s harder line on funding under-capacity rural schools.
Dundas County Trustee Jeremy Armer also weighed in with his impressions of the report. “I would say the voices were heard,” Armer told Nation Valley News.
On the subject of Seaway District High School’s future, Armer described as “fabulous” the proposal by the Municipality of South Dundas for an Innovation Centre and a new high-skills Information and Communications Technology program to preserve the school. The trustee intends to “work with municipal partners to make sure these things come to fruition” and looks forward to bringing about improved programming.
Armer acknowledged the ARC process had “hurt some people,” though he’s “glad” the review of school viability went ahead. The involved schools “were slated to be reviewed, but maybe that doesn’t mean we meant to close them.”
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