The NG Times Newspaper

by Deron Johnston

It’s been frustrating to follow the lengthy process instituted by the provincial Ministry of Education in reviewing which schools are going to be chosen for closure by the Upper Canada District School Board. It’s also been very upsetting for families affected by these proposed closures to sit back and hear that one of the reasons that their school is being closed is because not enough students are attending these schools. Last week’s UCDSB final report on school closures stated that the Oxford On Rideau Public School in Oxford Mills would close in September 2018 depending on space availability at South Branch Elementary School. However, information surfaced recently about some students from North Grenville District High School who have to leave their school and walk over to South Branch Elementary School [SBES] in order to attend some of their classes because, apparently, NGDHS is over capacity.

One NGDHS parent was shocked to hear from their teenager that, on their class schedule, it said that three of their five classes are actually being taught over at South Branch. The parent was confused by this new development, as they said that they had never received any information from the school that this was going to be happening. It’s difficult to understand how the school thought it would be acceptable to do this without at least notifying the parents in advance.

Another bit of information that was discovered by this parent was that the students from NGDHS who were walking over to their new classes at South Branch Elementary School were not allowed access to a locker or any secure place to store what they needed for their classes. So, this means that if a student needs something for a class that they didn’t have with them, they had to walk back to NGDHS in the middle of their class to get what they needed out of their locker and walk back. The alternative is that they carry three classes worth of supplies and books etc. over with them, with no place to store any of it.

When students began attending these classes, they were informed that they would not be able to use the washrooms at SBES, but rather would have to walk back over to NGDHS to use the washrooms there. Rightfully, the parent was concerned that, if one of the students had an illness or a medical condition, they would not have access to a washroom at SBES. Instead, they would have to somehow rush back to NGDHS. It’s difficult to imagine that, in a medical situation, someone would be denied access to a washroom at SBES.

The parent also wondered if the parents of the young children of SBES knew about all of those NGDHS students taking classes at SBES. Is there an additional staff presence monitoring the hall to make sure that no NGDHS student uses the washroom, or stays in their designated area? Is the section where the NGDHS students are taking their classes somehow separated from where the SBES students are? How does the school keep track of the students who need to go back to NGDHS to use the washroom, or to go to their locker? If a parent called NGDHS and needed to speak to their child, or wanted to know where their child was, what would the school do?

This situation seems very odd. How can you close Oxford-on-Rideau Public School and send those students to SBES, when that school currently hosts an overflow of NGDHS students? Does the UCDSB not know about this overflow situation at NGDHS? If NGDHS students can no longer go to SBES, where will they go? Through all of this, one alarming thought lingers: the schools seem to have not told parents of children from both schools about what’s happening.

An appointment was made to meet with the high school Principal to find out the situation from the perspective of NGDHS, but the appointment was cancelled less than an hour before it was to take place. Three additional calls and messages were left for the Principal. This past Friday, a day after the third message was left, a member of the administration staff at the school called back at 4:30pm and said that the Principal was suggesting that I should call a 1-800 number they gave me for the UCDSB Communications Department.
The story continues to unfold.


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