Parents can finally rejoice now that a years-long battle has come to an end. The announcement was made on September 28 that Oxford-On-Rideau Public School will stay open not just for another year, but permanently. The school had previously been on a list of UCDSB schools slated for closure beginning in 2017, with several extensions keeping it open to the present day. Now, parents can stop fighting the closure and breathe a sigh of relief.
The effort to keep Oxford-On-Rideau open was one that required the contributions of many. An entire action group was formed, cleverly named Oxford SOS (Oxford Save Our School). Brent Lekx-Toniolo was a member of Oxford SOS, a group that is credited with much of the effort that led to the successful reversal of the closure. While the success is clearly something to celebrate, there are other emotions at play as well.
“I think we all feel a bit mixed – a little upset that the board didn’t have enough foresight to see this from the start of this process, to avoid all this work,” said Brent. “However, we understand that they must operate under a strict set of guidelines, much of which they don’t have any control over. Besides that, we are all very happy. First and foremost happy that the kids (and future children around the area) will get an opportunity to continue their work at this great little school (or get a chance to go to it in the event of new students).”
Brent also made a note about the positive impact that this will have on other area schools. “[We’re] happy for the school community as a whole as this will help avoid further loading on other schools in the area,” he said.
UCDSB Chair John McAllister brought the motion forward to keep the school open permanently, and it was seconded by Lisa Swan, trustee for Ward 6. One of the driving forces behind the decision was the growing population in North Grenville.
Mayor Nancy Peckford was excited upon learning the news that the school would stay open. “So many families, teachers, administrators, and trustees, including Trustee Lisa Swan, never gave up on this school, and we are so very grateful!” she wrote on her Facebook page. “Board Chair John McAllister demonstrated his leadership and commitment by moving [the motion], seconded by Lisa Swan. MPP Steve Clark also expressed his support to keep the school open. It has been a pleasure to work with everyone to help them make the case for this gem in our community! This board decision now means that Oxford-On-Rideau has a very bright future in North Grenville as a valued community school in one of our largest and historic rural hamlets, Oxford Mills.”
Few things feel as good as hard work paying off. Brent summarized the community sentiment nicely in the aftermath of years of fighting. “It was a very long road, many parents, community members and trustees put a lot of work into this,” he said. “It’s so nice to see it all work out for the best.”