South Glengarry solution to save rural schools

Nick Seebruch
South Glengarry solution to save rural schools
Nick Danaher and Angus McRae

WILLIAMSTOWN, Ontario – Recently, South Glengarry resident and Save Char-Lan representative Todd Rozon presented a plan to the Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) that would save Char-Lan District High School and Williamstown Public School.

Under the Upper Canada School Board (UCDSB)’s Peer Accommodation Review, Char-Lan would close with its hundreds of students being bused to Cornwall to attend St. Lawrence Secondary School or CCVS.

The ARC meetings were organized by the school board to hear the response from the community to their proposed school closure plans.

Essentially the plan Rozon presented at the ARC meeting would involve a merger of Char-Lan, Williamstown Public and S.J. McLeod Public schools into one K-12 school.

Under this plan, Char-Lan and Williamstown Public would merge into one Grade K-12 school. S.J. McLeod Public School would close with its students being sent to the grade school site of the new merged school.

Rozon noted in his presentation that Char-Lan and Williamstown Public are merely 250 feet apart as is.

He went on to point out that if the UCDSB’s goal was to save costs and reduce empty spaces in its schools, that this plan did that.

Williamstown Public School and S.J. McLeod has a combined space utilization of 171 percent with 364 students, with Char-Lan at 78 percent utilization with 323 students. Combined the schools would be using 110 percent of available space thereby eliminating all empty seats in that feeder group.

“Realistically, it is a pretty simple thought process,” Rozon said. “We polled the parents of students and 90 percent found this solution favourable.”

Rozon’s presentation showed that this plan was favourable for several other reasons.

One was the high academic standards produced at schools in the Char-Lan feeder group.

Char-Lan is consistently above the UCDSB average and the provincial average in EQAO Literacy Testing and Char-Lan’s graduation rate is over 90 percent.

Furthermore, the Save Char-Lan presentation pointed out that by closing Char-Lan, the school board would be losing valuable resources along with it.

Of those surveyed by the Save Char-Lan group, 82 percent of parents said that they would pull their child out of the UCDSB rather than send them to a school in Cornwall.

Additionally, there is roughly $34, 000 worth of bursaries given out to graduating Char-Lan students every year and it is unclear if that money and the opportunities that come with it will stay in the school board if the school closes.

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