School closure public input meetings have begun

The first round of public meetings gathering community feedback on the Upper Canada District School Board’s Building for the Future Accommodation Review Committee process, got underway last week.

The first meeting took place November 10 for the Prescott-Russell Family of Schools, and was not well attended.

Local ARC committee members don’t want that to be the case later this week when the Dundas Family of Schools meeting takes place at Seaway District High School. 

Joyce Latulippe, who is the ARC representative for Iroquois Public School implores parents and community members alike to be active in the process.

What is needed most immediately from the school communities and the community at large is attendance at the local ARC meeting this Thursday.

Those actively involved with the ARC process managed to get a meeting here in South Dundas since it is greatly impacted by the board proposal, so now what they would like is to fill the gymnasium for the presentations that will describe the schools’ local importance.

Monday evening, the meeting for the Stormont and Glengarry families of schools took place at General Vanier. Over 500 people were in attendance.

“I would love to see that here,” said Latulippe.

The Stormont/Glengarry meeting featured eight presentations, outlining community, municipal, economic and student impacts of the proposed closures.

“What is being proposed is an assault on rural education,” said former local MPP Jim Brownell, who delivered one of the presentations at Monday’s meeting.

Latulippe recently learned that the board survey, that will be looked at by those making the decisions, has only had about 130 respondents, when there are 888 school kids in South Dundas. 

She hopes that more will take the time to respond.

“I don’t expect anyone to spend the time on this that some of us have, but answering the survey and sending an email with your thoughts to the people who determine the fate of your children’s education is not a time consuming option,” said Latulippe. “Please consider this.”

At the November 14th meeting Tim Mills, Superintendent of Schools for the Upper Canada District School Board, who is also the ARC 2 chair said, “All feedback will be given equal consideration, regardless if it has been submitted through the survey and/or through public delegation.”

Those wishing to present at the upcoming public meeting at Seaway on Thursday, had to apply to do so last week.

Mills told The Leader Monday that the number of delegations presenting at Thursday’s meeting is being finalized.

“We anticipate that there will be eight delegations presenting on behalf of the school and business communities, and local municipalities,” Mills said.

He would not confirm whether or not more than eight delegations had applied to make a presentation at the Seaway meeting.

For those who wish to make a presentation, but were not able to do so at this week’s meeting, there will be another opportunity when the second ARC public meeting for the Dundas Family of Schools takes place in January.

In a media release regarding this round of public meetings, UCDSB chair Jeff McMillan continues to state that “We want people to be aware that no final decisions have been made.”

“The meetings are part of an overall effort to gain input and keep the public informed of the Building for the Future process,” said Director of Education Stephen Sliwa in the same media release. 

It also says that information received throughout the process will be included in a final report that will be prepared by UCDSB staff and presented to the board of trustees on February 15, 2017. Final board vote will take place on March 23, 2017.

In the proposal, all three South Dundas school will be affected. Morrisburg Public will close and its students along with Iroquois Public students will be moved into the Seaway High School building. 

If the proposal goes through as presented in the draft report, South Dundas will lose its only high school with high school aged students in South Dundas going to either to North Dundas or South Grenville District High Schools depending on whether they reside north or south of a proposed Highway 401 boundary.

According to the proposal, the closures are planned for the end of this school year. 

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