Nine years ago, administrators for the Upper Canada District School Board began an accommodations review process (ARC) called Boundary 2020. The results from that process saw two of the four elementary schools in South Dundas close, and Seaway District High School become a Grade 7-12 school.
Since then, the population in South Dundas has been stable, as have enrolment numbers in the remaining schools. During the same period, the UCDSB has had budget surpluses, including a budget surplus of $913,215 at the end of the 2015-16 school year.
Capital repairs have been made in recent years to the remaining schools in South Dundas. This includes new windows, roof and office HVAC systems at Seaway, classroom renovations at Iroquois Public, and a new roof at Morrisburg Public.
With stable enrolment numbers, buildings in a good state of repair and a board with budgetary surpluses, what is the reason South Dundas schools have been targeted for closure?
It was stated at the September 28th school board meeting where it was approved to enter into the ARC process, that the board had an excessive amount of surplus space. If you look in South Dundas schools, there is not. Morrisburg Public and Seaway do have some surplus space, while Iroquois Public is overflowing into a portable classroom. Additional space to accommodate students is a good thing.
A comparison was made by Superintendent Jeremy Hobbs between older schools and the new Bridgewood Public School in Cornwall, and how it would be nice to offer some of the features of those new schools elsewhere.
Building shiny new schools is all well and good: however, in South Dundas, we are happy with the schools we already have.
Moving the two elementary schools together may make sense. The Catholic school board underwent the same process 12 years ago merging St. Mary’s and St. Cecilia’s. Closing Seaway District High School and transporting students 40-plus kilometres is absurd at best.
If Seaway students are split between the aging buildings in North Dundas and South Grenville, this will fracture the community and create a drain on enrolment to the board. Many families are already looking at their education options outside of the UCDSB and South Dundas.
Education is not about building new schools, it is about teaching students. The only education students are receiving from this process is that rural students and rural communities do not matter.