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MPP Smith seeks petition signatures to keep rural schools open

Todd Smith

With the first public meeting set for Wednesday to discuss school closures and changes in Prince Edward County, MPP Todd Smith is collecting signatures for a petition to keep rural schools open in small local communities.

Over the month of January, Smith has said his office has received considerable contact from parents and community members concerned about what closing schools could mean for their community.

“There’s been a lot of concern from parents and students about the school closures being proposed for the County and Madoc township,” Smith said. “These communities have had schools going back generations. For these towns, the school really is the heart of the community. A lot of people are telling my office that they think closing the school is the end of their community.”

To gain attention for local campaigns, Smith has launched a petition on his website and his office will be making it available to constituents.

“Petitions are a good way for people to register an official protest with the government,” he said. “But they’re also a way for my office to stay in touch in situations like this where there’s going to be more information coming.”

The current Accommodation Review process has generated controversy locally and across rural Ontario as a number of schools in small, rural communities have found themselves on the chopping block as school boards face declining enrolment and the resultant decline in funding from the Ministry of Education.

“People ask me why someone would move to a community without a school. This has the potential to have a major economic impact on these towns,” Smith said. “They really do see this as another attempt to hollow out their corner of the world. So, we’re going to help them protect it.”

The first public meeting for the Prince Edward County schools accommodation review is Wednesday, Feb. 1 at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute, 6:30 p.m. in the gym.

Six of the County’s eight schools are affected in proposals for closures and changes. The review proposes closing Pinecrest and Queen Elizabeth, schools and moving the students to the high school in September. It also proposes to close Sophiasburgh and move students in 2018.

CML and Kente public schools are also proposed to close and ministry funding would be sought to build a new K-8 elementary school in Wellington for 2020. There are no changes proposed for Athol South Marysburgh and Massassaga Rednersville public schools.

Click here to sign the petition

Six of the County’s eight schools are affected in proposals for closures and changes to be discussed at Monday’s student enrolment and capacity committee meeting of the Hastings Prince Edward District School board.

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  1. Gary says:

    I assume that is permanent residents. Certainly much higher population living in the County in the summer. Not making babies however at least not one’s that remain here.

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    If you check the Quinte News site there is a report on our latest population census – since 2011 the County decreased by 2.1% – down to 24,735 – the only other area in the Quinte area to go down was Deseronto. Unfortunately, this is the reality of what our local Bd. of Ed has to take into consideration. Unless, our local politicians can come up with a plan to attract businesses with good jobs and families, I don’t see this situation changing.

  3. Dennis Fox says:

    Your point is a good one – but I was only offering a suggestion to those who are trying to find away through this mess. Obviously if it was possible, like in the old days, the local community and their trustees would make the decision – which is a lot better than having a long distance decision made by Queen’s Park.

  4. Susan says:

    Oh really. And are you ready to accept the significant tax increase to keep open and maintain every rural school at 50% capacity? Some schools have to close. We are fortunate that we are a relatively small rural area which reduces bus travel times in comparison to other regions of the Province.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    Perhaps returning the right for school boards to levy a tax might help in situations like this? It would be a way for the local community to protect what is important to them without going to the province.

  6. Mark says:

    The single largest cause for the exorbitant energy costs today was the Provincial Tories deregulation of the publicly owned Ontario Hydro. Off topic I guess but it is an enormous pressure on schools as well. Answer that Todd.

  7. Fred says:

    Smith does need to be more than the designated attack dog for the Tories and address the various actions they took that assisted with the mess and how they have changed and can correct.

  8. Gary says:

    Smith does need to put on the table what changes he and his party are or can proposing to provide relief. Todd is a good watch dog but he needs to provide some sound details on how things get fixed and the tax on us all works under a rather scary Tory leader, whom Smith did not support as leader.

  9. Emily says:

    Perhaps Smith can tell us why we should trust his party after they gutted schools, municipalities and Hospitals and deregulated Ontario Hydro!

  10. Chuck says:

    I think it is OK, but the MPP doesn’t need to be self righteous like his party hasn’t contributed to this pickle. Political bantering and jumping on motherhood issues for an advantage at power. All parties strive for power and will use whatever strikes the voters heartbeat at any given time.

  11. Snowman says:

    I have to agree with you Phil Norton. Bringing up Mike Harris and blaming him? where does it stop?Let’s go back to the ’60s or even the ’50s.They made mistakes to.
    Talk about looking in the rear view mirror!.
    A good idea, is still a good idea, even if a political opponent thought of it first!

  12. Phil Norton says:

    All this partisan bickering. You’d think Trump was in The County!

    I commend our Conservative Member on this initiative and want to sign the petition to keep our rural schools open.

    So what if you’re Liberal, put your anger about the past aside and focus on what’s best for the students and our community today.

  13. Dennis Fox says:

    Myrna – your point about government sending mixed and confused messages, on both the educational and healthcare fronts is dead on! I am concerned too – regarding our healthcare situation it is even more confused (at least to me) – they want to delay building a new hospital for years – why? Now what services that new hospital will provide have been glossed over – but what we do know is that healthcare is a growing concern in this community because our aging population – per capita is the oldest in the province – and growing! Our education system, is equally as important, but the fact is, in this community, the student population is on a decline and has been for years. As we know, these issues are experienced province wide and require far more attention than just a petition. Government at all levels have known this time would come, and yet have done ZIP!

  14. Dennis Fox says:

    All I know is that I want to wish the very best outcome for the parents and the kids. So here’s hoping!

  15. Chuck says:

    Todd works hard and is a constant rat in the ear of government. Speaks hard on energy costs but I haven’t heard his resolution to the issues. And would feel much better if he admitted the Tories put a lot of the ingredients into the poor tasting pot of energy soup!

  16. Myrna Wood says:

    well said Dennis. But what I keep thinking about is how communities like this one built our schools and hospitals and have maintained and supported them all these years.
    So let’s start again. Maybe they didn’t have lots of kids then too.
    Rather than spending $$ to upgrade and keep our hospital they want us raise $$$$$ over 20 years and then MAYBE they will fund a new hospital.
    No sense in any of this.

  17. Dennis Fox says:

    Just to be clear – at no point have I tried to protect the current provincial government. They certainly have a lot to answer for, particularly in the energy sector. But let’s also be factual – the previous government under Harris/Eves were just a guilty of financial mismanagement – the more difficult parts of what they did was the destruction of systems and institutions – from education to healthcare, from hydro sell-off to the amalgamation of municipalities and school boards. According to them, this was to save us money – what a joke! I have no idea of what all this has cost us over time – BUT I do not trust any government any longer. With this latest problem of declining enrollment and school closures – this is not the first time this has happened in Ontario and Todd Smith should know this. There is an aspect to all of it being a natural cycle of peaks and valleys.

    On one hand there is a funding issue for school repairs and replacement that needs to be addressed, but the issue facing PEC is a much bigger and more complex one – the lack of children! This too is not suddenly a new issue and I just don’t see how a petition by our local MPP is going to help. I find his idea of helping and finding a solution to be less than desirable, but very politically opportunistic.

  18. Fred says:

    This is a real problem. This is happening all across the province. We cannot reasonably afford to keep all schools open with a declining enrolment. And understandably no one wants their local close by school closed. Fortunately bussing students in Prince Edward County is not anywhere’s as long time wise as some other communities do or will experience.

  19. Mike Barnes says:

    I’m not an expert on past political wrongdoings, but we are in the here and now, and if working with local politicians helps to put the brakes on this thing, that can only be a good thing, right?

    If you take into account that the current ARC process does NOT take into consideration the community impact or economy to closing schools (read the last row in table here: http://www.peopleforeducation.ca/pfe-news/changes-coming-to-school-closing-process/),
    I would think more people would be upset if they DIDN’T step in.

  20. Chris Keen says:

    The liberals have had thirteen years to reverse or mitigate any of the previous conservative government policies they disapproved of and did nothing. What does that suggest?

  21. Myrna Wood says:

    Dennis is right to point out how we still suffer from Conservative actions years ago. But let Todd organize a strong showing for the record.
    The only thing that will actually help is exactly what our residents are doing – hold meetings, explain options to all, be loud, get on the government’s case, go to the press, RESIST.

  22. Dennis Fox says:

    So Gary, let me understand you clearly – you believe that past performance means nothing and that where we are today has nothing to do with what a government’s past policies were? If you had read carefully, I did describe the Conservatives as being a “culpable partner in crime” – meaning they are not alone to blame for what is happening now. This is a typical example of a politician’s perfect dream – a member of the public with a short memory! If the public doesn’t demand better long term planning and solutions – do you really believe politicians will? Smith is playing the game of vote getting. So what will his petition do, other than build his election profile? He offers no solution – same old, same old!

  23. Marnie says:

    Go, Todd, go. Tory’s and the Tories’ actions cannot be blamed on you. Your actions help a lot. You are giving a voice to those who disagree with the proposed school closures. Isn’t that why you were elected?

  24. Gary Mooney says:

    So, Dennis, let me see if I understand you. You think that our MPP, an opposition member with no direct influence on the government, should sit back and do nothing, when his consituents are asking for help?

    Also, I’m not sure what the decisions of his party, most recently in power 13 years ago, have to do with the Liberal Party’s (mis)management of the provincial government since 2003.

  25. Susan says:

    Right Dennis, but don’t stop there. They amalgamated municipal governments and Hospitals. And deregulated Ontario Hydro. The conservatives are far from blameless but now have the answer for education. Just more of the same.

  26. hockeynan says:

    I don’t usually agree with some of your coments Dennis but I support you 100% on this one.

  27. Dennis Fox says:

    I find Todd Smith’s actions lacking credibility. He needs to remember that it was a Conservative government that amalgamated school boards and centralized educational funding at Queen’s Park – taking away any local right to levy taxes to maintain local needs. If you also recall, when John Tory was the Conservative leader, both Tory and his party supported private school funding- taking away even more money from the publicly funded school systems. While Smith can’t be blamed for what has happened now, the party he represents certainly are culpable partners in crime. Now he is out vote getting – he knows what he can do with his petition! His actions don’t help in anyway!

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