North Glengarry remains committed to improving rural education

Posted on Tuesday February 05, 2019
Stock image: Children in school
Stock image: Children in school

ALEXANDRIA, February 4, 2019 – At the ROMA Conference in Toronto on January 28, Jamie MacDonald, North Glengarry Mayor and Warden of the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, met with Ontario Education Minister Lisa Thompson, to discuss the need for a rural education strategy. Mayor MacDonald was accompanied by North Glengarry’s Deputy Mayor Carma Williams, North Glengarry Councillors Brenda Noble, Jeff Manley and Johanne Wensink, as well as North Glengarry CAO Sarah Huskinson, United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG) CAO Tim Simpson, South Glengarry Councillor Stephanie Jaworsk and MPP Jim McDonell.

As a united delegation, the representatives from Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry shared their concern that the education system as we know it today, will not be sustainable in the future.

The province and local school boards need to do more to support students and schools in rural areas.

“The existing policies do not put the needs of students first. The previous government’s “bigger is better” focus has had a serious negative impact on our students. The elephant in the room remains the fact that there are too many publicly funded school boards in Ontario. While that is not the topic of conversation for today, we implore the government to begin a process to tackle this issue,” said Mayor MacDonald.

The delegates requested that Minister Thompson take the steps needed to develop a rural education strategy which aims to improve both the Program and Accommodation Review (PAR) and the Community Planning and Partnership Guidelines (CPPG). This review needs to recognize the unique challenges faced by local schools and it needs to promote and enhance these schools.  The SDG delegation further recommended that the Pupil Accommodation Review (PAR) account for the community and economic impact related to any proposed school closures, and asked that Minister Thompson maintain the current moratorium on school closures until new processes can be developed and implemented.

The region of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry is currently served by four school boards. All four boards are competing for the same student and public funds are being used to advertise for that same student to attend half-empty schools, which are struggling to remain open.

“The removal in 2015 of the necessity to consider the community and economic impacts of school closures was misguided. We recommend that guidelines and regulations be put in place describing the exact process that school boards must follow when determining the impact school closures will have on rural communities,” said Mayor MacDonald. He elaborated that these guidelines should not be viewed as a requirement to prevent school closures, but rather as a strategy to ensure that community partners are considered in decisions that will have broader, resounding impacts.

Better planning and coordination among and between the various school boards is also essential. The first step shouldn’t be to close schools. Prior to closing a school, each school board should be required to clearly demonstrate that they have considered all options for housing students - including sharing existing, underutilized schools. “In our area, there have been historical examples where school boards have shared facilities. Based on the number of shared facilities across the province, this is clearly not an option which school boards are pursuing,” said Mayor MacDonald.

The delegation expressed their shared opinion that no capital funding should be provided for new schools until is has been demonstrated that there are no viable options to share existing school facilities. Pre-consultation with stakeholders should be mandatory during the initial staff report and trustees need a stronger role in the process.

The meeting with Minister Thompson was an encouraging step in this process. The Minister has agreed to work with the County and Township to study the challenges in our region. It’s an issue that has resounding community effects. The Township of North Glengarry and the County of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry remain committed to ensuring that education remains a priority.

 

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Sarah Huskinson, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Canton de Glengarry nord - North Glengarry Township

cao@northglengarry.ca/ T. 613-525-1110/ F. 613-525-1649/www.northglengarry.ca

 

T.J. Simpson, MPA, CMO, RRP, Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Corporate Services Dept.,

United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry

tsimpson@sdgcounties.ca / T. 613-932-1515 x202 / F. 613-936-2913 / www.sdgcounties.ca

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