At the beginning of last week, some students and parents breathed a sigh of relief at the release of the final draft of the Upper Canada District School Board's (UCDSB) Pupil Accommodation Review. At the same time others, stiffened their resolve.
On Friday, Feb. 17, Char-Lan District High School and Williamstown Public School held celebrations in anticipation of Canada's 150th birthday. Those celebrations I'm sure were all the more joyous knowing that their town's high school would not be closed in five months.
In other parts of the United Counties however, the presentation of the UCDSB's final draft report just marked the next phase in the battle against the change the school board is trying to introduce.
Rothwell-Osnabruck in Ingleside is facing the loss of their high school program and those students being bused to Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore. This move will cost the school board over $400, 000 and $160, 000 of that will come from busing costs alone.
The nearly half-million dollar hit to the school board's budget seems small when compared to the projected $7.5 million hit that will be done to the Township of South Stormont if the study by Doyletech is to be believed.
Rothwell-Osnabruck's high school program is one of the few schools in SD&G to still be mentioned under the closure list in the final draft report. Char-Lan, Williamstown P.S., GDHS, Longue Sault Public School and Maxville Public School have all been spared. S.J. MacLeod, North Stormont P.S. and CCVS and St. Lawrence Secondary School (which will be merged into a super-school) join R-O on the school closure list. Some of these schools will be closed by the end of the school year, like S.J., and some pending capital funding, like CCVS.
The considerable grassroots network that formed around the schools that were saved can't rejoice for long. At least I don't think so. The school board is not finished. The problems that spawned the school board's first draft still exist and are not solved in the final version.
Remember that the school board said it had to eliminate nearly 10, 000 empty spaced across its system. The final draft report only eliminates a little over 2, 500 of those empty spaces.
The school board had to eliminate those empty spaces because of a funding change from the Ministry of Education that no longer provided financing for empty seats. Additionally the Ministry of Education will not provide funding to build new schools as long as there are empty spaces in old ones.
With almost 7, 500 empty seats, the school board will likely revisit the school closure issue sooner rather than later.
MPP Jim McDonell pointed out in a recent public statement that it was the Ministry of Education's funding scheme that has led to these cuts. Until the issue of funding for rural education is solved, the school board will be constantly pressured towards closures and consolidaitons.
It's not over yet.