By Connor Lynch
School closures in Ontario are not as widespread as some had feared but as schools close, rural students will be hardest hit.
Ontario’s Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said in 2015 that there were as many as 600 underutilized schools in Ontario. In the 2014-2015 year there were 4,893 publicly-funded schools in Ontario.
While many feared that 600 underutilized schools translated to 600 closures, it’s more like 110 likely school closures in Ontario, excluding northern Ontario.
In Eastern Ontario and East-Central Ontario, five per cent, or 55 schools, are currently recommended for closure, or closed in the last year. However, 41 of those schools recommended for closure are either in a rural area or at the edge of an urban area and likely accept rural students.
The issue lies with the province’s funding structure. School boards are funded per pupil. Schools operating at less than 100 per cent capacity are either underfunded to maintain the facilities or draw funding away from more populated schools.
Rural areas, with smaller and less dense populations, are therefore taking the brunt of closures.
The review process requires public consultation after board staff make their initial recommendation. After consultation, school board staff release their final report and their recommendations. “These final staff reports are coming out and they’re unchanged from the initial staff report,” said Ontario Alliance against School Closures spokesperson, Susan MacKenzie.
Rural parents are scrambling to defend their local schools to spare their children longer bus rides, including rides that could take longer than the time the students spend in class. But frustration abounds for parents burning the midnight oil coming up with alternatives to closure but seeing no change in the final staff report. “It just proves that the process is a democratic façade,” added MacKenzie. “(Parents) are being heard, but not listened to.”
MPP Steve Clark (PC-Leeds-Grenville) has called on the province to put a moratorium on rural school closures before school boards start voting this year on more closures. The Ontario Alliance against School Closures has twice called for the province to issue a moratorium on rural school closures.
The ministry of education’s website says that the province does not have the authority to change or overrule school boards after they’ve voted to close a school.
Here are 55 schools in Ontario, east of Toronto, recommended for closure, including the schools that recently closed:
Durham District School Board
Epsom Public School in Scugog
Thorah Central Public School in Brock
Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board
Hillcrest School in Belleville
Quinte Secondary School in Belleville
Moira Secondary School in Belleville
Queen Elizabeth Public School in Belleville
Queen Victoria School in Belleville
Madoc Township Public in Madoc
Pinecrest Memorial Elementary in Bloomfield
Queen Elizabeth School in Picton
Sophiasburg Central School, Demorestville
C.M.L Snider School at Bloomfield
Kente Public School at Ameliasburgh
Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board
Kirby Centennial Public School at Clarington
Limestone District School Board
Yarker Family School at Yarker
Trillium Lakelands District School Board
Lady Eaton Elementary in Omemee
Catholic District School Board of East.Ont.
Immaculate Conception in Cornwall
St. Columban’s in Cornwall
Sacred Heart in Cornwall
St. Joseph Catholic Secondary School in Cornwall
Durham Catholic District School Board
Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Durham (closed last June)
Peterborough-Victoria-Northumberland – Clarington Catholic School Board
St. John Catholic Elementary in Kirkfield (closed last June)
Ottawa-Carleton District School Board
Rideau High School in Ottawa
D. Aubrey Moodie Intermediate School in Ottawa
Greenbank Middle School in Ottawa
Leslie Park Public School in Ottawa
Grant Alternative School in Ottawa
Century Public School in Ottawa
Regina St Public School in Ottawa
J.H. Putman Public School in Ottawa
Upper Canada District School Board
Benson Public School in Cardinal, southeast of Kemptville
Char-Lan District High School in Lancaster
Glen Tay Public School just west of Perth
Long Sault Public School, west of Cornwall
North Elmsley Public School just west of Smiths Falls
Oxford-On-Rideau Public School in Oxford Mills, west of Kemptville
Pakenham Public School in Pakenham
Plantagenet Public School in Plantagenet
Rideau Centennial Public School in Portland, northwest of Athens
Rothwell-Osnabruck in Ingleside
Seaway District High School in Iroquois
Wolford Public School in Merrickville-Wolford
Iroquois Public School in Iroquois
Morrisburg Public school in Morrisburg
S.J. McLeod Public School in Lancaster
Williamstown Public School in South Glengarry
Caldwell Public School southwest of Ottawa
Glengarry District High School in Alexandria
Maynard Public School just west of Prescott
South Edwardsburg Public School, east of Prescott
St. Lawrence Secondary School in Cornwall
Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School
Sweet’s Corners Public School, Lyndhurst
Maxville Public School, Maxville