by Stephen Hammond
Reasons to keep Oxford on Rideau School open.
- OoR Tech Robotics and Coding is an innovative program that also may be the first in elementary schools in Ontario, if not in Canada. Reward this effort.
- More local schools keeps education locally competitive and diverse.
- Less time spent sitting on a bus. More time for extra-curricular activities.
- Small schools and small class sizes improve the educational experience for both students and teachers.
- What would this innovative OoR Tech program cost the school board to set up and run? It’s a free test program with tremendous upside.
- Decentralization makes sure we as a community don’t have all our eggs (and future generations) in one basket.
- School buildings are part of local municipal infrastructure and have many uses in addition to the education of children: Emergency preparedness and safety; Cooperative health or other government service synergies; Night classes for adult education or general skills improvement for all; Community use of schools for local clubs, music groups, special events, etc.
- The internet has made it possible to have easy access to knowledge and learning experiences in a decentralized setting. Centralization is old style thinking.
- Shift the thinking away from bean counting myopia to improvement and investment in the quality of the school. What’s the saying, “Build it and they will come”. I say, “build it, maintain and improve it, and they will come in droves”.
- There is an unprecedented amount of new development in North Grenville including (2) new housing developments in Oxford Mills. We need this building to remain a going concern to serve a growing community.
- This school building is already bought and paid for. Why waste a perfectly good building? What would a new school building cost? The costs of a new building in some other location would dwarf the variable costs of keeping the school open. The school board is not saving any money by building brand new facilities and closing older structures. Schools are about learning, not bling.
Some important things to note about education and rural school closures:
A) Ontario rural schools are underfunded (provincial funding) by 25% compared to urban schools.
B) One in five Ontario residents live in rural areas.
C) Rural School closures seriously impact the economy and cohesiveness of rural communities.
D) There is no meaningful way for the community to understand, debate and hold accountable the UCDSB (and other boards, and the province) on the issue of school closures.
Let’s seriously question the idea that it is good to direct government policy towards supporting more urban growth and centralization. The Soviet Union did centralization and urbanization in a way that required the destruction of small rural communities and people’s lives (in the millions). It didn’t work out well. Let’s face it, the move to urban areas already has enough “natural” impetus on it’s own. Much of this “natural” impetus is also government directed and may even be unsustainable.
Urban areas also require very costly public infrastructure and very costly upkeep. Rural areas require and receive much less infrastructure and services beyond minimal road upkeep and, by the way, provide the food, forestry, mining and nature stewardship for the urban areas. It might be a good idea to not give up on the countryside.
So, let’s get some action on this. How about the following as a starting point?
- Let’s demand that every member of our Municipal council write a letter -and an email – to every member of the board of trustees and the superintendent of schools for the UCDSB requesting that they support the continuation of Oxford on Rideau public school. Tell our municipal leaders we want some answers in a public forum.
- Every member of the community of North Grenville that cares might consider doing the same (see above). There’s 17,000 of us after all. Residents of North Grenville, let’s show we care! Let’s keep this school as an important part of our community for future generations.
Here’s the mailing address: UCDSB, 225 Central Ave. W., Brockville, ON K6V 5X1
Note: For more info, please see Shannon Geraghty’s excellent paper, “The Rural Effect on School Closures and the Limitations Within the Provincial Policy Framework”; Western University MPA Major Research Papers. I have used some material from this paper for this article.