The 2020-21 school year is over and everyone made it. Students, teachers, support staff, bus drivers, school administrators, parents and guardians, and everyone else involved deserve a pat on the back.
The past school year was marked with two major shutdowns, remote learning, and zero school events like sports or arts. Masking, keeping your distance, and staying safe was as important as English, Mathematics, or Science. Students spent as much time in front of a computer screen as they did in physical classrooms, and the results of that will take years to realize. Still though, our students crossed the line, made the grade, and resiliently moved their way through another school year.
For the Class of 2021, this is it. Graduation means moving on to new challenges, a new school, new opportunities in life. This time last year, The Leader said of the Class of 2020 that the Seaway District High School motto of “per ardua ad astra” which translates to “through adversity to the stars” was fitting of the graduation year. The adversity that class faced at the end of that school year was a precursor to what this year’s class faced. On further reflection, the motto for Seaway is not only fitting of the 2020 and 2021 graduating classes, but of our rural high school in South Dundas in general.
The benefits of rural-based education in your community have been stated in the pages of this newspaper, and many other rural newspapers, for decades. Not only for the education value of smaller class sizes, close connections between families and schools, – but the support of the community for its rural schools.
That support was shown again financially with the bursary program at Seaway. This year, nearly $44,000 in bursaries were funded. In fact, over the past five years, over $200,000 in bursaries and scholarships have been awarded to students who have graduated from Seaway. That is an impressive sum of money. What is more impressive is that two of those five years have been during the global pandemic. Many of the businesses whose names are listed as supporting bursaries this year have had operations affected by pandemic-related restrictions.
The same can be said for the community organizations and clubs which funded bursaries at the school. Those group have had their fundraising activities also curtailed by the pandemic. Through good times, and bad times, the South Dundas community has supported its high school. This support by our community has also been seen in our many elementary schools throughout this year, and every year, and is the sign of a truly caring community.
These signs, this support, should also serve as a warning to other levels of government when considering education. The threat of permanent remote learning options and potential budgetary cuts loom large from the provincial government. Claims that it is spending more than ever before are due to the pandemic. When the cuts come, it is the small schools that see cuts first, and are most affected.
Since the attempt to close Seaway and other schools in the region nearly five years ago, the community’s renewed commitment to local education has shone. That has resonated at the county-level as well. Residents and supporters of all schools in South Dundas should be commended.