and Nelson Zandbergen
Nation Valley News
INGLESIDE — Local business owners, parents, students, and other concerned citizens came together today for a ‘Last Chance Rally’ vowing to prevent the dissolution of Grades 7 through 12 at Rothwell-Osnabruck School (R-O).
South Stormont Mayor Jim Bancroft delivered a ‘never surrender’ speech to the approximately 90 people gathered outside the Ingleside school. Bancroft first spoke on behalf of local MPP Jim McDonnell (currently out of the country).
“We must continue to voice our concerns and opinions and not give up,” Bancroft said, quoting from the MPP.
The mayor seconded McDonnell’s position and added, “This is not over, not over by a long shot.”
“Please don’t give up, don’t give up!” he implored the audience.
“Say to [Ontario Education] Minister [Mitzie] Hunter, we’re not going away!”
Bancroft urged the crowd to email and write letters to any and all government and school board members.
Organizers encouraged the audience to take signs home with them and put them on their lawns.
Emphasizing that school supporters must continue pushing the issue, he declared: “Whether we win today’s battle in round one or in round nine in the ninth inning … it doesn’t matter as long as we continue to fight.”
Bancroft said he was certain the Upper Canada District School Board’s decision to eliminate Grades 7-12 at the school “was never about the students.”
The upper grades at R-O are slated to be transported to Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore this September — unless the UCDSB trustees reverses their 6-5 decision or Minister Hunter intervenes to overturn it.
So far, there has been no indication the UCDSB is about to have a change of heart, or that Hunter will act.
The UCDSB did, however, officially respond on May 21 to school supporters’ demand for a review, according to the mayor, adding a “facilitator” will be looking into R-O’s case as a result.
In his remarks, Bancroft also appeared to briefly leave open the possibility of losing the upper grades for some period of time, while vowing to fight for their return. “We’re never going to give in, even if we have a lapse at some point in time,” he said, describing the message his listeners ought to send to the minister: “We’re not going away.”
He also expressed disappointment that the township’s offer of $700,000 for a shop program at R-O “counted for nothing” when UCDSB trustees made their decision in March.
And the mayor conceded that South Stormont has decided against court action to prevent the changes at R-O because of the potential cost versus the likelihood of prevailing in front of a judge.
One of the rally organizers, Julie Potvin, said it was a “great turnout. We have a lot of support. Rallies are a great way of getting the word out on a larger scale.”
This article was updated to revise the estimated crowd size upward from 60 to 90.
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