Parents, children and local dignitaries rallied at Wolford Public School on Saturday to protest the school’s possible closure come June 2017.
Wolford Public School is one of 29 Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) schools in Ontario currently under review, 10 of which reside in the provincial riding of Leeds-Grenville.
The list of schools slated for potential closure was presented in a report approved by the Board of Trustees on September 28th which detailed plans for consolidation as well as a public consultation plan meant to keep communities informed. This spawned the creation of Accommodation Review Committees (ARCs) whose purpose is to gather information, with which the board will make its final decision.
Christine Pavan is one of the members of the ARC for Wolford Public School. She says communicating with the Board has been very frustrating as getting information about the accommodation review process has been very difficult. “The Board has set up an email where you can ask questions but I emailed them 4 days ago and I haven’t gotten a response.”
The Board has set two meetings where they will hear from the public about the consolidation plan. At the meetings set for November 16th and January 30th the Board has stated that they will only hear 8 presentations, meaning that several of the schools on the list will not have the opportunity to present their case. “It’s wrong that not every school will have the opportunity to present,” MPP Steve Clark said at the rally.
Steve says he feels for the UCDSB who have had to make accommodations for a lack of funding from the provincial government. As of last year important top up funding that was provided to help the needs of rural schools was cut. Because of this 600 elementary schools throughout the province are in danger of closure which will affect thousands of rural families in Ontario. He also believes that the way the accommodation review process is being carried out is flawed. “They are not taking into consideration the value that these schools have to their communities,” he says. “They’re trying to make it about dollars and cents, numbers and percentage, and that’s not right.”
For Wolford parents the school is a valued and cherished part of their community. In many families children, parents and even grandparents have been students at the school. Allan Wilson, who owns a small auto body shop down the street, was one of the School’s first pupils when it opened. He hopes that his 2 year old grandson Ryder will be able to continue his legacy in a few years. “He will be the third generation at Wolford Public School.”
Christine says the parents at the school are very involved. It will be much more difficult for them to play a role in their children’s education if they are going to school miles away. Not to mention the hour-long bus ride many of the kids will face if they are forced to attend school in Smiths Falls. “My kids love going to school. All the kids play together and there is no bullying,” Christine says. “It’s not just a school it’s a big family.”
Photo: Austin Craig – Senior Kindergarten student at Wolford Public School