NORTH STORMONT, Ontario – On Monday, March 21, the United Counties of SD&G settled on the next steps of their Education Equity Plan, which includes asking the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) to not close North Stormont Public School in Berwick, North Stormont Township.
North Stormont Public School was selected for closure as a part of the 2016 Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR) which saw a number of UCDSB schools consolidated or selected for closure.
The United Counties have asked the UCDSB to reconsider the closure of North Stormont Public based on census data and rising enrollment numbers at the school. According to the most recent Canadian census that was released earlier this year the population of North Stormont Township has grown by 7.2 per cent. Enrollment data for the school shows there were 102 students enrolled for the 2019-2020 school year, significantly higher than the UCDSB’s projection of 63 which was made in 2015.
“Counties Council has made it clear that improving access to rural education must continue to dominate our decision-making moving forward,” said United Counties Warden Carma Williams. “Following our successful Rural Education Symposium in February it became clear that we need to continue pushing this file on behalf of young families in SDG,
and across Ontario.”
The postponement of the closure of North Stormont Public School is just one of three steps adopted by the United Counties as a part of their Education Equity Action Plan.
The United Counties have also approved the hiring of Dr. Paul Bennett of Schoolhouse Consulting who will help the Counties with their future education priorities with the goal of mitigating or preventing the closure of rural schools.
“We’ve done a lot of great work and we’ve got a lot of momentum,” said United Counties Councillor Stephanie Jaworski, a member of the Counties’ Education Working Group. “This requires a specific skillset and expertise – and we have found that in Dr. Bennett.”
Dr. Bennett is a long-time Canadian consultant with an expertise on small schools. He has written 10 books on improving access to education.
The United Counties have also made their Education Working Group an official standing committee which will regularly report back on the state of rural education to Council.
All of these decisions are the latest in an effort over the past year to promote and protect rural education. In 2021 the United Counties of SD&G had a report commissioned on the state of rural education, and in February of 2022 they held a rural education symposium at which Dr. Bennett was the keynote speaker.
Local school boards had previously been critical for not being invited to directly comment on the United Counties rural education report and for not being invited to speak at the symposium.