BDO, the consultants hired by the Municipality to evaluate the proposals for the future of Kemptville College, will report their findings in April, and the report should be made public on April 4. There have been many comments made in the past few weeks that seem to cause grave doubt on the viability of that future for the institution which would celebrate its centenary next year, but North Grenville CAO, Brian Carré, remains encouraged and confident that the Municipality has found a direction that will be successful in preserving the College for many years to come.
However, it is not the vision that had been put forward earlier this year, when the concept of a multi-tenant campus being shared by a number of educational institutions had been talked about. But the Working Group which had been set up to prepare a plan for the College found that there was, in the words of Group Co-Chair, Gary McTavish, “really no interest” in the campus by any of the institutions approached by the Working Group. Brian Carré, who was the other co-Chair of the Group, explained that a number of universities and colleges were spoken to, including Trent University, Fleming College and Algonquin College, but without success.
“No single educational institution had any interest in taking over Kemptville College”.
Brian rejects firmly the comments made by the Kemptville College Alumni Association president, Ron Burgess, who believes that there is no real future for education at the campus. “Is it over? As far as the two-year diploma program, I can’t see it happening. There may be an opportunity to bring in short programs — up to a year — like welding”, was the judgment of Mr. Burgess. But Brian Carré responded to that by pointing out that, once the lack of interest on the part of the Province or those institutions became obvious, the Municipality of North Grenville “shifted our gears”.
“I agree that agricultural education, as it was being offered at Kemptville College back in 2013, that format, I would say has no future. But the direction that we are going, we have every indication from the province that there is a future for agricultural education, looking at climate change innovation, as well as water management. My view is that there is a future for agricultural education in the sector revolving around climate change innovation, reducing carbon footprint in those areas.”
Brian believes that, by going back to its original function, Kemptville College can rediscover its role. “Our story is that, if you go back to the founding of the College in 1913, there was a crisis in agriculture, and farmers needed to be educated in soil sciences, etc. Governments got together to establish the College to educate the farmers in new technology. We see this story being retold again in 2017, whereby agriculture needs to look at doing things differently if it wants to be sustainable. And what better place to do that than in Kemptville College, where it was done before?”
The plans for the College include tapping into the interest in practical applications to deal with climate change issues. We’re looking at things like low-carbon to zero-carbon impact greenhouses. We know that the commodity groups, OFA, Seed Growers of Eastern Ontario, they’re all into this. We are not talking research projects here, we’re talking about applied, practical things. I am encouraged.”
Once the BDO Report is released on April 4, the NG Council will have an opportunity to share it with the community before deciding whether there really is a viable economic future for the 100 year-old Kemptville College.