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Opinion: Fixing rural education means everyone should be at the table | Education

Opinion: Fixing rural education means everyone should be at the table | Education
Opinion: Fixing rural education means everyone should be at the table 

A recurring story in my six years at Seaway News has been the state of rural education in United County SD&G

I started with Seaway News in July 2016.  That September, Catholic and public English-language school boards released their draft Student Accommodation Review (PAR) report, calling for a significant reorganization of schools and student spaces in the region.  Schools in Ingleside, Long Salt, Williamstown, Lancaster and even Cornwall were placed on chopping blocks for closure.

The release of this draft report triggered a movement, indeed, and a fight that in many ways continues to this day, nearly six years later.

Parents and students rallied together to save the schools.  Some, such as Rothwell-Osnabrook in Ingleside and Char-Lan in Williamstown, managed to save their schools from being cut down;  Others, such as SJ McLeod, were closed, and some, such as CCVS and St. Lawrence Secondary School in Cornwall, will be closed in the near future as the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) prepares to create a new amalgamated school. 

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As an observer, I witnessed this process by school board administrators and trustees who were attempting to comply with their provincial mandates to meet their budget requirements, against students, parents, and local politicians.  who wanted to put their schools and their children in their communities.  ,

Five and a half years later, and this division still pretty much exists.

Late last year, the United Counties of SD&G launched a report analyzing the state of rural education.  The results of this report identified the challenges and assets that rural education currently faces.

Some of the challenges in the report include multiple school boards competing for the same pool of students, inconsistent delivery of programming across schools, and administrators viewing education as a business rather than a public service.

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The report culminated on February 7 with a symposium hosted by the United Counties of SD&G with speakers from all veterans fighting school closures, whether locally or from other parts of the province. 

Not invited to speak at the symposium were school boards, which were also not asked to provide their views on rural education in reports commissioned by the counties.

Now, six years ago, during the PAR process, I was shocked to see so many rural communities coping with the loss of their local school, and traveling for an hour to get their kids on the bus.  was likely to be seen.  Another school in a different community.

That being said, that was then, and it is now.  The report should have asked school boards for their views, and invited them to speak at the seminar.

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“We can’t be on different sides on how we move forward on rural education,” Todd Lalonde, president of the Catholic District School Board of Eastern Ontario (CDSBEO), told me last week.  "But right now that's where we are in this community."

I also understand the mindset of the school board during the PAR process in 2016, even though I didn't agree with it and still don't.  They are tasked with being financially sustainable, and really, it all comes down to, finances and funding.

Ultimately, the people with the real power to fix rural education are the politicians in Queens Park and what they need to be lobbying for to make rural education economically sustainable.  Making rural education sustainable and getting the dollars needed to keep rural schools open will require a united front between school boards, municipal governments and the grassroots movements that are fighting so hard for their communities.  However, doing so is easier said than done.  I think a lot of dialogue will be needed to find the much needed common ground amongst the trustees, administrators and community organizers.

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The fight hasn't happened.  There are indeed some systemic issues in rural education that need to be addressed.  Rural schools are important to their communities.  Rural schools are meeting places and economic drivers, not just places of learning.  Students should not spend an hour on the bus to go to a school outside their community.  The Rural Education Report commissioned by SD&G's United Counties contains valuable insights into rural education and should not be left on a shelf somewhere to collect dust.

Source: Nich Seebruch, Seaway News