Reaction to school moratorium: R-O and Benson still closing

MORRISBURG — In a follow up to the announcement of a province-wide moratorium on school closures by Ontario education minister Mitzie Hunter June 28th, the Upper Canada District School Board is not reconsidering school closures.

Two schools in the region, the Grade 7-12 portion of Rothwell-Osnabruck School in Ingleside and the Kindergarten-Grade 6 Benson Public School in Cardinal, along with six other schools were approved for closure by the board of trustees March 23rd.

“The challenge is that we conducted our process by the ministry’s guidelines as they were,” Jeremy Armer — UCDSB Dundas County trustee — told The Leader. “It’s unfortunate they came out with this moratorium after we have done our review.”

The UCDSB released a statement late June 28th stating the board would be looking at the new funding for rural and northern schools, along with support for community outreach with partners.

In the release, UCDSB chair Jeff McMillan said the ministry announcement is not retroactive.

“The Minister’s announcement recognizes and honours the important role that locally-elected trustees have in addressing the specific needs of their communities,” said McMillan.

That has not stopped calls for a review and repeal of the closures of the Benson and Rothwell-Osnabruck schools.

“We call for the closure of Benson Public School to be withdrawn because the Ministry now acknowledges that the pupil accommodation review process is flawed,” said Donna Gladstone, a member of the Benson parent group. “Our closure is scheduled for after the new guidelines are released. It should not move forward under the old, flawed guidelines.”

A similar response came from the parent group hoping to save the Grade 7-12 section of Rothwell-Osnabruck.

“The UCDSB’s decision to close R-O should not be allowed to stand, since it was made through a flawed and rushed process,” said Jennifer MacIsaac – member of the Save R-O group. “The Ministry has put the ball in the UCDSB’s court. The board has the power to review and reverse past decisions that were made with inaccurate, incomplete information, with a very short timeline, and with an admittedly flawed process.”

Students from Benson will attend South Edwardsburg Public School in Johnstown for the 2017-18 school year, while the Grade 7-12 students from R-O will move to Tagwi Secondary School in Avonmore.