CORNWALL, Ontario – Char-Lan District High School students walked out in protest after the singing of the national anthem on the morning of Friday, Oct. 14. The move was in protest of the Upper Canada District School Board’s proposed plan to close the school and 11 others by July 2017.
After marching around the front yard of the school, students took to a stage setup near the front entrance to talk about their grievances with the School Board’s decision and explain why their school should not be closed.
The first person to address the crowd however, was Theresa Lauzon of the OPP who encourage the crowd to protest peacefully.
Stormont, Dundas and South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell was on hand to give advice and encouragement to the protesting students.
“We have to write letters to the school board and to the Trustees to let them know we are not going to sit down and take this,” he said. “If we make this just our fight, we lose. We need to make this a fight right across the Province.”
Former school board Trustee Art Buckland praised the students for the efforts they had undertaken so far.
“If this happens, never again will we see such a group of bright students as you will be dispersed across this board,” he said.
One student who got up to speak, Nick Danaher, said that many students would not be staying in this school board if the UCDSB follows through with what they have proposed.
“We need to make it clear that we don’t plan on staying in the school board if they close Char-Lan,” he said.
Colin Munro, a Char-Lan alumnus and representative of MP Guy Lauzon, put it in more straightforward terms.
“The folks in Brockville picked the wrong community to mess with,” he said.
Throughout the morning, students were invited on stage to talk about what they liked about their school, what was unique, and what was at risk of being lost if the school closed.
Many pointed to the closeness and community they felt they could only find at a smaller school like Char-Lan.
Others pointed to Char-Lan’s unique culture and openly questioned if they would be given a day to celebrate St. Andrew at a new school.
They also pointed to the schools strong sports and academic performances and history.
“We don’t want to be treated like just another number in a big school,” said Grade 12 student Angus McRae.
One member of the community, Tanya Flaro, had helped the students organize the event and said that she had spoken with a Trustee about the protest.
“I got a message from a Trustee who is against us and said that we are going about this the wrong way,” she said. “He said that this should have been done during lunch time and should not have disrupted classes. I told him that the school board were the ones going about things the wrong way.”
Student Shane MacFarlane gave the school a strong rallying cry.
“Let’s make sure we’re not the last Crusaders to go through that door,” he said.