ALEXANDRIA, Ontario – Students at Glengarry District High School (GDHS) walked out of their classes on Tuesday morning to protest the Upper Canada School Board’s (UCDSB) proposal to close their school as a part of their Pupil Accommodation Review.
Pending funding from the provincial government, GDHS could be closed and its students sent to Vankleek Hill C.I. and Tagwi Secondary School.
The UCDSB expressed their disappointment at the protest and warned that the students put themselves at risk by leaving their classes. The Board also reminded the public that students can express themselves through their web survey on the Building a Future Pupil Accommodation Review.
“We are both concerned and disappointed that GDHS students who organized today’s event disregarded requests by the school’s administration to use other opportunities to share their concerns about the pending accommodation review process,” read a statement from the UCDSB signed by Superintendent Tim Mills. “In no manner can we accept others advocating that students – some as young as 12 years of age – are properly cared for by walking out of their school rather than being in class. Our staff will continue to bring to the attention of our students the appropriate channels available to express their views, so that we can maintain a balance between the interests of our students and our obligation to safely operate the school and supervise pupils.”
Parents however, feel that the students have been left with little meaningful recourse other than public protest.
“We understand that the Board is concerned for student safety, however the students at GDHS felt that they needed to publicly support their school, which is not something that can be accomplished by filling out the Board’s survey,” said Chris Diraddo, who is on the GDHS Steering Committee and has a student at the school. Diraddo also is a member of the Glengarry SOS group that is a collaboration of members of the Glengarry public who are against the proposed school closures.
Diraddo was not alone however. On Tuesday afternoon, the UCDSB posted their statement against the walkout on their Facebook page however, at that time most parents commenting on their statement saw the protest in a positive light in one way or another.
“I can relate to the safety issue factor of the students, but just maybe if the board is so concerned about the issue at hand, maybe they can understand where the students objective was and that being actions speak louder than words,” commented one Kim Parker.
“I don’t condone actions which put students at risk. But I actually get a little excited when I see students acting as critical thinkers, taking on causes that are important to them and making their voices heard,” wrote one George Cooke. “I hope they also participate in this dialogue using the structured avenues offered by the board,” he added.