Editorial: Public problem solving

There were ten presentations at the January 23rd Accommodation Review Committee 2b public meeting held in Cornwall. Each of those presentations were professional, polished, and provided detailed information to the board, the ARC members and the public.

Two distinct types of presentations were made: the impact on students, families and communities should rural schools be closed; and detailed plans on how to fix the Upper Canada District School Board’s space issues in rural schools. In other words, these presentations gave the board exactly what they’ve been asking the public to provide since the process began in September.

Doctors spoke of the mental and physical health effects on students forced into long-distance bus rides and of the adverse effects of uprooting school communities. Municipal leaders spoke of how the board’s proposals will damage their community’s growth potential. The long term implications are bleak all around.

What was most interesting, however, were the communities that presented ideas on how to fix the board’s problems. Residents proposing to save Maxville Public School spoke of how to remove capacity and improve programming at the school. Their presentation took the school, currently at 36 per cent occupancy, and boosted it to 93 per cent. In addition, they had worked with local contractors and the municipality to provide in-kind work to modify the school to implement the plan so that there was no cost to the board or the province. All of the points made by the group are in compliance with the board’s process and the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines from the province.

Plans by groups advocating for saving Rothwell-Osnabruck Secondary, Longue Sault Public, Char-Lan High and Glengarry High all spelled out proactive measures to not only save the schools, but to make them more attractive in comparison to the other three school boards in the area. Simple changes to structure by adopting a Kindergarten to Grade 12 model at Char-Lan and Williamstown PS, boundary shifts at R-O and LSPS, or improvements to programming and restoring boundaries changed under the board’s Boundary 20/20 plan for Glengarry High, fix most, if not all, space issues.

There are two hopes arising from this: one, that board officials are listening as they have said they will; and, two, that board officials will act as the public they represent wishes them to act.