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Councillor seeks support to stop school closures; stay local review process

UPDATE: Both motions carried.

Councillor Bill Roberts will seek Prince Edward County council’s support of a resolution from the Counties of Bruce and Grey which urges a moratorium on rural school closures.

In November 2016, the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board unveiled plans that would change six of the County’s eight schools.

Mayor Robert Quaiff, at a council meeting in December, stated the municipality wants all its schools to remain. He fears the Accommodation Review Committee work placates procedure and plans under way are already “a done deal”. He recalls the same feeling when the North Marysburgh School at Lake on the Mountain was closed a number of years ago.

The board’s recommendation closes Picton’s Queen Elizabeth Public School in Picton and Pinecrest Memorial in Bloomfield. Students move to vacant space at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute as early as 2017. In a year’s time, Sophiasburgh public school would close and students would also be moved to the high school.

Recommendations are for a new school to be built in Wellington for students from CML Snider and Kente public schools. No changes are proposed for Athol-South Marysburgh or Massassaga Rednersville schools.

Board-wide, recommendations include changes to 19 schools as the board faces capital renewal needs of $250 million over the next decade and low enrolment numbers.

The resolution adopted by the Counties of Bruce and Grey requests the Minister of Education to rewrite the Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline (PARG), to “take into consideration community and economic value, consideration of rural communities and provide for a more democratic process.”

Roberts also requests a copy of the support resolution be forwarded to the Premier, Minister of Education, MPP Todd Smith, Jeff Leal, Ontario Ministry of Food and Rural Affairs, Association of Municipalities of Ontario, Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus and Counties of Bruce and Grey.

At Tuesday night’s council meeting he is also expected to request support for a resolution for a ‘Stay of Execution on the Accommodation Review Process’. The first public meeting for the County is set for Feb. 1 at PECI at 6:30 p.m.

It states ‘the current Accommodation Review Process is not reflective of the reality of rural school and community life;
and that school closures impact single-school small rural communities in all educational, social and economic aspects to a far greater degree than those impacts in multi-school urban communities.

It states the Hastings Prince Edward District Board of Education has initiated an unachievable timeline for the proposed transition plan and that will have a negative impact on the health and safety of the students.

The proposed Stay of Excecution would be in force until a review of the above mentioned impacts on small rural communities can be studied, completed and the results and recommendations be considered.

He requests the resolution be circulated to Premier Kathleen Wynne, OMAFRA Minister Jeff Leal, MPP Todd Smith, Hastings and Prince Edward School Board, Community School Alliance, and all municipalities in Ontario.

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  1. Marnie says:

    Failure to provide a name doth not a troll make Mike and frankly your repeated use of the word troll is getting a little tired. Is it supposedly a synonym for those who do not share your point of view? There are many good reasons why some of us do not supply our full names. For that matter, even when a full name is supplied how can we know that it is a valid one?

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    Susan – I can appreciate what you are saying. Look at what happened to Merlin the CAO – it proves that anyone can be fired by Council – even after having their contract renewed. However, not everyone using a pseudonym is a town employee – many say outrageous things and hide behind it. Personally, I don’t have a problem with pseudonyms – if it allows for people to take part in the discussion, then anything they say doesn’t bother me – provided that it isn’t a comment made to hurt other people and just lacking in any semblance of intelligence. You know, like a Donald Trump comment.

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    No problem Mike F. – glad to help if I can. I’m not trying to discourage anyone efforts here, BUT I have checked what is happening in my place of past employment – The Toronto District School Board.. The best I can find on short notice is that 60 schools have been identified for either closure or “reorganization” (same thing) – 48 elementary and 12 secondary – and this is only the public board. Last night on the TV news, several separate schools were mentioned too.

    The only reason that I mention this is to show that this problem of school closures is happening across Ontario. I got some other disturbing information as well – this same school board is diverting Special Education funding in order to make ends meet – which I find to be a disgrace!

    I wish everyone well in this battle – because that is what it will be – and maybe that is what is needed??

  4. Susan says:

    Mike; with all due respect there are many reasons why a person should not or cannot provide a full name. If you had lived here longer you would better realize the impact of persons speaking out against Shire Hall. You could be easily down the road quickly. Many very good workers have been released for no cause. You may be new here and positive but you need to understand how politics work here!

  5. Mike Farrell says:

    thanks for your support of the idea Dennis -I agree -buying time will be helpful here. What we’re after here is to make PEC a case study for a new approach to rural schools. A number of meetings so far booked on our behalf with the Min of ED and Min of Rural Affairs. The drumbeat against the 600 planned school closures (most in small towns and rural communities) is getting louder. Maybe it’s time to turn this into a good news story in some part?

    As for Gary’s comment – thanks for the kind words on my post. But I won’t back down for burning trolls. Or anybody who doesn’t use their real name in these forums.

  6. Fred Flinstone says:

    Perhaps too much sex education is the problem! Lol

  7. Dennis Fox says:

    Hey Mike – I’m not debunking internet jobs and working from home – the more new people who move here the better. But as we know, it is not happening in a quick way and the Ministry of Ed. funds what they see in front of them. What is needed here is the ability to buy time, in the hope that a great number of kids materialize soon. Here’s hoping!

  8. Mike says:

    Just offering some more numbers for you Dennis … I’m in the same boat as Mike. My work travels with me through working “over the internet” and we moved here from Ottawa 4 years ago, and our 3 kids go to Pinecrest. The nature of work is shifting to the gig economy – contracting, freelancing, etc. I’m sure some smart marketing person can figure out a way to target more of our kind 😉

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    Oops! Sorry again for writing too much – I get carried away on this issue. I will try to be more restrained in the future – honest – I hope – maybe!

  10. Dennis Fox says:

    I think we need to re-focus on what this article is about – that being a motion by our Council to support local schools, at a time when school closures are very possible.

    I agree with the expressed idea of one of the writers that the internet has made it possible for young families to move to the County and for them to do their out of town based business from here. This practice is still fairly new because reliable high speed internet has only arrived in the County over the past few years. I have no idea how many have moved here under those circumstances – however, it has not been enough to impact on school populations and likely won’t be for a number of years.

    Entrepreneurs have come to the County for many years – whether to develop a cottage industry or something far grander like a winery – my point is that it has been happening for a long time and is not a by-product of social media. Unfortunately, despite the influx of new people over the last twenty years, with new ideas and new money – they have not produced a lot of children.

    What one writer describes as “Community Development” should not be confused with “Economic Development” – he is right that the County has developed a great atmosphere for people to live and work in – but that has not translated into keeping our school populations healthy. The political target over the last several decades has been to attract seniors with good incomes. Not a good way to plan the future and a goal never promoted by any Board of Education that I know of.

    I “THINK” (I’m not sure) what gets many people(mothers and fathers) upset is seeing their tax dollars going into what is called “Economic Development” and not seeing any benefit – like good jobs being created for their kids to stay here. What was described earlier, by a previous writer, implies that only those moving here, with outside connections can find a decent enough job to stay here. While they may not be tied daily to a job in T.O. – County kids have to leave here to go there to get a job. This situation has been taking place here for years – and that’s the problem! Whatever definition of Economic Development is being applied by any Council over the past years – it hasn’t worked. I think people placed trust in others who claimed to have the answers, only to see their kids leave their community and now to see their schools close. I think they have a right to be angry.

    Regardless of who is right or wrong in this debate – just how does it help increase the student population, enough to keep our schools open? We know the answer to this question. This explains the frustration that I expressed earlier in a previous comment – I find Council’s Motion(while hopefully well intended) to be totally useless at this time – and possibly one of deflection. Unless they can come up with a way to make kids ASAP – then our community better get ready for either paying for empty classrooms or seeing schools close. Either one would be a tragedy.

  11. Gary says:

    Well spoken until the very end where you couldn’t resist name calling.

  12. Mike Farrell says:

    In response to Marnie’s comments saying “Historically younger families have not been attracted to this area and it is unlikely that they ever will come in any significant numbers. The big-paying jobs are not here.”

    You’ve forgotten one key aspect of your historical perspective – the internet. It is the internet that has allowed for many professionals, like, me, to run their businesses from…wherever. In my case, and the cases of many here who share the same story, being within a couple hours of Toronto allows for the majority of my time to be spent here in the community and enjoying all that County life offers – and running my business and executing projects. These are entrepreneurial times and it has been propelled largely by the internet – not just silicon valley tech software but the simple connectivity this provides for anyone that doesn’t actually have to be anywhere all the time to do their job and earn their livelihood. Focusing on industry jobs and safe pension jobs with stable working hours is NOT the way the economy here is going to improve. Community Development has it right for the County – it’s not about attracting industry, it’s about selling the way of life, the community and the family-friendly infrastructure to the new creative and professional class who are, happily, not tethered to a given workspace.

    Thanks to (most) in this threaad for some good thinking. To the trolls – I say thanks for teaching me.

  13. Emily says:

    And how much do you think that botched process will cost us for the OMB. They budgeted this year $125,000 of taxpayers dollars. They are in no position to criticize or critique others. How much did the canning of the CAO cost us because he did their dirty work but wasn’t a yes man? Perhaps $300,000. All taxpayers dollars for disposal.

  14. Dennis Fox says:

    First of all, I am sorry – I got carried away with this topic and wrote far more than I should have. But to reply to your question – in my opinion our Council has no room to criticize, nor to point the finger when it comes to following a proper process.. Your point about how they dealt with Council Size is dead on the target!

  15. Emily says:

    The mayor suggested that the Boards consultation with the community may just be a process and a fait accompli. Was there a basis for that reference or was he just following Councils usual process with community consultation i.e. Council size !

  16. Dennis Fox says:

    The Provincial government under Mike Harris removed the ability of School Boards to levy taxes – leaving them entirely dependent on provincial grants. Obviously, this arrangement has not worked well for any of the school boards across the province – all are in need of a major influx of dollars – not just PEC. The amount needed province-wide to repair or build schools is in the billions! Yes, schools are an important part of all communities – but they depend on having kids attending them – which again is not happening in many areas across Ontario. People simply are not having as many babies and schools are half empty – thus the local Boards lose money for every lost student placement. That is happening here.

    Boards are not funded for empty classrooms and for every empty classroom, for those kids attending school – well they are getting less spent on them. This is a serious problem for every Bd. of Ed and for every parent and student – it is not an issue for self-serving municipal governments to play around with. Where was our municipal government when school funding became a problem years ago?

    The problem that I am having with Council’s involvement now, is that it s coming too late, with no remedy. This motion only places unfair pressure and false expectations onto another group of elected representatives – the trustees. The trustees did not create this problem – the lack of children and poor funding did and both are out of their control. Council knows this and yet they want to involve themselves because they now want to promote Economic Development. In their own way they have ignored the education system for years and now suddenly find they need itand want to use it. How typical!

    As pointed out in previous comments, schools are an economic attraction for younger families and businesses. To date, despite PEC being well served by our Bd. of Ed., Council dithered away their time to create economic development – for years! So now they suddenly want the Board to slow down the process and to keep schools open – when they are faced with $250 MILLION in capital renewal needs! As I stated before – how would Councillor Roberts or the rest of Council feel if the Bd. of Ed. made motions critical of $100’s of millions needed for municipal roads that their school buses have to use each day, or the “over the top” cost of water(which schools use). If the municipality was serious about helping the School Board, they should have approached them years ago – this situation is not new and Council should have known that this time was coming for many years. However,over the last few years Council fired their CAO and Economic Development Officer, and gutted the department. Now Council claims that economic development is once again important and expects the Bd. of Ed to suddenly comply with their new direction.

    The Bd. of Ed has to deal with long term planning and outcomes – something our Council should be doing , but as this motion proves, this concept if not new, is certainly a foreign one to them. What the Board and parents are going through is not an easy nor wanted situation – however, it is a much needed process to determine the long term plan for our schools. It doesn’t make it less painful, but this process is important – but what is not needed is political interference. If council has concerns, then they should make them known to those who “might” be able to fix it – the province. This motion is politicizing the education sector between parents and trustees and deflecting all responsibility away from Council.

    Parents have every right to be angry, but anger should be directed at the Municipal, Educational and Provincial systems of government -they all have failed the community and the kids. This motion comes too late and helps no one other than council. If Council wants to help, then they should show the Board the respect that they deserve and to allow their process to take place without interference. Council needs to remember that the Bd. of Ed. has a much better track record of handling their budget than what PEC Council does – all done without raising our taxes yearly or giving tax breaks to rich land owners.

  17. Lorna Egan says:

    There is a baby boom going on right now. Just look at kindergarden enrolment for September 2017.

  18. countyrulez says:

    School closures, high cost of living (housing, water, etc), crumbling roads, aging population…

    Its pretty much the least favourable place to relocate too. Luckily the build a new life website exists so it can promote the people who create these tourist based businesses.

    All of the frills that Community Development can give the public won’t happen if there are no schools, and continually high cost of water.

  19. Chuck says:

    I believe the present Provincial policy is that no bus travel should exceed 1 1/2 hours one way. That could mean 3 hours a day max. Seems a bit much for kids.

  20. Gary Mooney says:

    Schools are a municipal issue in that younger people moving here want to know that their kids, present or future, will be able to attend a school that doesn’t involve a long bus ride.

    There is no way that closing multiple schools is going to going to be positive in attracting young families..

    This is definitely an economic development issue, and Bill Roberts is the Chair of the Economic Development Commission. He’s the appropriate Councillor to be putting forward this motion.

  21. Marnie says:

    Wow! Two years in the county and you know all about it. Historically younger families have not been attracted to this area and it is unlikely that they ever will come in any significant numbers. The big-paying jobs are not here. My former neighbours left high-paying jobs in the city to come to the county and build a home. Their first child was born here. Five years later, they moved. They could not find work that offered wages and benefits comparable to what they had left behind. They did not want to get rich, but they had to pay their bills. The county is never going to be a hub of industry with great jobs for young people. It’s a wonderful place for tourists and retirees however. Maybe we should be content to do what we do best.

  22. Mike Farrell says:

    For those of you in this thread that are lost in time – go here to see what the County is SUCCESSFULLY doing in attracting younger families to Prince Edward County.

    The idea that Prince Edward County has no momentum and is declining is a tired old story. I should know. I moved to the County with my wife and our young daughter from Toronto two years ago. We now have added a bonafide County girl into the family since then.

    And Barney Rubble (excellent alias for a troll) if you’re talking about Bill Roberts lack of enthusiasm for the Picton Terminals it’s clear there were strong environmental concerns presented by their proposal. I’m sure you’re not supporting industry that de-prioritizes our natural environment – or are you?

  23. Gary says:

    Yes Dennis. Perhaps our School Board Trustees could assist and make recommendations to our Council on some of their work. They could start on two botched files 1. Water & Wastewater Crisis 2. Tax relief to farmers who have significantly increased their equity wealth.

  24. Dennis Fox says:

    How would Councillor Roberts appreciate having school trustees commenting on the poor state of our municipal infrastructure? Roberts knows a good “Motherhood Issue” when he sees one, but nonetheless, I think his time is better spent where he was elected to spend it – that being on municipal issues and not educational ones. He might get a surprise when he discovers that at least in part, our low student enrollment is the result of poor council policy in attracting more tourism, instead of establishing a permanent business and industry sector here in PEC. Roberts s playing politics and voting getting at the expense of the education system! I’m sure that local trustees don’t appreciate Council’s interference – that is unless Roberts wants to give the Board of Ed. some money to help them keep the schools open. Which he can’t. Seriously, this action by him does not help the situation.

  25. BARNEY RUBBLE says:

    To bad Councillor Bill Roberts does not have the same enthusiasm for getting new industry into the county. Young families move out ( NOTE declining student population) because there is no work , therefore no way to buy a home in the county. Keep inviting seniors to relocate to PEC and we can shut down all the schools.

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