On Friday, May 5, the first of many public engagement sessions throughout Ontario was held at the Baldachin Inn in Merrickville by the Ministry of Education.
Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter and Grant Crack, MPP for Glengarry, Prescott and Russell were on hand to hear from community members about how best to address the unique needs and challenges that rural and remote communities face when it comes to education.
“Our goal is to hear from local community leaders, school boards, educators, Indigenous partners, and members of the public to gather feedback on how to best support and enhance rural and remote communities,” said Mitzie Hunter in a statement released after the session. “I was encouraged by the willingness to collaborate to find solutions to ensure all students, regardless of where they live, have access to high-quality, publicly-funded education.”
One of the main concerns voiced at the meeting surrounded the impact of local school closures on the towns in which they reside and the need to enhance communication between all partners including the government, the school boards and parents.
“There is no question that these decisions, such as when to close or consolidate a school, are among the most difficult for school boards to make, balancing fiscal responsibility and access to the best possible programming opportunities for students.” Mitzie stated in response. “That’s why it is so important that school boards, communities and municipalities work together when they are planning for their future so they can find creative and collaborative solutions that meet student needs. I was encouraged to see this prospect at tonight’s session.”
Nine more public engagement sessions will be held throughout the month of May in small towns across Ontario. The Ministry also encourages those interested to visit their website, www.ontario.ca/ruralschools, to submit their feedback and complete an online survey. All the information gathered at the engagement sessions and through the website will analyzed and presented in a report this summer.