Ministers Hunter and Chiarelli pen letter to municipalities

Published on March 13, 2017

Ontario Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter toured schools in SD&G on Tuesday, January 10. She is pictured here during a press conference after her tour of Char-Lan District High School (Nick Seebruch/ Seaway News).

CORNWALL, Ontario - In a joint letter sent to school boards and municipalities on Sunday Ontario Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter and Minister of Infrastructure Bob Chiarelli called for more co-operation on rural education.

In the letter, Hunter describes how she will promote co-operation between co-terminus boards "particularly if doing so will maintain a school presence in a rural or isolated community," the letter states.

The letter goes so far as to promise that future captial funding could be contingent on school board's sharing resources.

"Going forward, we will be reviewing all school board requests for capital funding to ensure joint-use between boards has been pursued before funding is granted," the letter reads.

The issue of co-terminus boards came up in Question Period at Queen's Park last week. During that debate, Premier Kathleen Wynne urged school boards to work together and with municipalities on the issue of declining enrollment and rejected calls for a moratorium on school closures as a "blunt instrument".

The Seaway News reached out to the two major English language school boards in the area the Upper Canada District School Board  (UCDSB) and the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO) for comment on co-operation between their two systems on the school closure issue.

Chair of the Board of Trustees for the UCDSB Jeff McMillan said that his school board had considered all of its options during their Pupil Accommodation Review and that co-operation with their co-terminus board was one of the first.

"The difficulty in co-operation on this issue is that we were conducting a review process across the entire board, whereas the Catholic Board narrowed their focus to the Cornwall area," he said.

Bonnie Norton, Superintendent of Business for the CDSBEO agreed that co-operation with the UCDSB was always an option their were willing to pursue, but that their differences in approach to the Accommodation Review process meant that there was little opportunity on the issue of school consolidation and closure in their respective boards.