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County and community call for suspension of changes to schools

Tight timelines and a flawed review process continue to top concerns with proposed school closures and drastic changes in Prince Edward County.

More than 100 community members attended the second and final public meeting for the Hastings Prince Edward School Board’s accommodation recommendations Thursday night at PECI.

The board made its recommendations last fall to fight declining enrolment and capital needs.  Accommodation Review Committees (ARC) were set up to discuss the draft plan which outlines combining students from Pinecrest in Bloomfield and Queen Elizabeth in Picton at PECI this fall; sending students from Sophiasburgh to PECI in the fall of 2018; and seek funding to consolidate Kente Public in Ameliasburgh with CML Snider in a new school in Wellington for September 2020.

Dr. Charles Pascal, a professor who served as special advisor on early learning to Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2007, called the formula for the process flawed and ismoving too quickly – especially for this rural community “that you just can’t compare to urban centres such as Belleville and Toronto.”

Pascal, who moved to the County 14 months ago, said it should be left to “the creativity of Prince Edward County solve the problems the board is trying to solve too quickly, and too narrowly.”

“If I were to pick one indicator of how we are doing as a civil society, it would be how long it takes a Grade 3 student to get to school every day.”

The community of Sophiasburgh is proposing a multi-purpose “hub” in effort to save its school.

ARC member Mike Farrell spoke of the inclusion of child care, community kitchens and gardens and others who would pay to utilize space at the school, coupled with possibilities of grants being available.

ARC member Evelyn Wison spoke about busing of students from the Kente area to Wellington and questioned costs of new and extended bus runs, and the length of a school day that would see some students leaving home while it’s still dark in the morning, and returning as darkness falls in the evening.

Ahead of the first public meeting in February, Mayor Robert Quaiff and councillor Bill Roberts, during a conference of the Rural Ontario Municipal Association, met with Education Minister Mitzie Hunter to request the process be slowed down for the County, and other rural schools across the province.

They urged the minister to re-write the accommodation review guidelines to consider impacts of economy and rural communities.

Ahead of Thursday night’s meeting, Mayor Quaiff sent a six-page letter to the minister outlining the municipality’s disappointment and concerns with the process.

He noted a memo from Hunter from March 6 in response to voices of discontent from a number of jurisdictions. The ministry indicated that in the spring of 2017 it plans to “launch an engagement on new approaches to supporting education in rural and remote communities,” to be overseen by MP Lou Rinaldi.

Based on current timelines, Quaiff told the minister the County would never benefit from the upcoming engagement and requested the the ministry “halt the process of consolidation happening in many rural and remote communities” until potential solutions are available.

He noted the local school board responded to the memo April 11, stating concerns that the community would question the validity of the current review process and asked the province for reassurance it would not undo the responsibility of trustees to make local decisions… including the community consultation process.

“While we can accept that changes to public education in our community are highly likely, we cannot accept this process and that the proposed solution needs to happen with the current amount of haste and with such little engagement or opportunity for the municipality to be involved,” said Quaiff. He also stated the municipality has seen no numbers that show how the proposed consolidations will yield savings.

The final decision is scheduled for the school board’s meeting June 19. Laina Andrews, superintendent of school climate and well-being, stated she is confident the high school would be ready to accommodate 650 more students come fall.

They mayor, in his letter, believes it would be “logistically impossible to design the necessary changes to the building, apply for and gain required building permits, prcure the contractor and then complete the renovations to both the indoor and outdoor spaces in the 77 days from decision to the beginning of the school year.”

“By suspending, or at very least slowing down the process, we can participate in the province’s engagement program this spring and could very well develop a solution that benefits all parties involved,” said Quaiff.

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesHastings & Prince Edward District School BoardLocal NewsPECI - It's a Panther Thing

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    I don’t for one minute believe that young children should be attending a high school – but I also don’t believe the young men and women at PECI are anything like what is being said about them. I have some contact with a few of them everyday and I have never seen the behaviour that some are concerned about. Instead of knocking the students of PECI, knock the crazy idea of placing young children in an entirely wrong educational environment. A more appropriate setting would be to have the young ones attend an elementary school that could be closed. If kids have to travel, at least let them attend an age suitable location, with their peers.

  2. Chuck says:

    You present PECI as one terrible place. If that is so, why would a parent send any child under the age of 18 there? I do not believe all students at PECI are as bad as I am reading. If it is true then we are in real trouble.

  3. Kathleen philip says:

    Well you can make that 649 students because if Pinecrest does close we will not be sending our kid to the high school. He will go to either son rise or st gregorys or we will home school him. We are so against the school closures. Sorry but my kid will not be with the high school kids. He is only 10 years old and I refuse my kid to see the fighting, or the high school kids making out and especially my kid or any little kid seeing the high school kids doing drugs. So no my kid will not be your guinea pig and go to the high school in September. So the schools better not close.

  4. Leigh-Anne Arnold says:

    we are talking about sending children as young as 3 1/2 to the high school is outrageous, I drive by the high school at least 3 days a week and I have yet to see any exterior preparation for these student (playground) nor any area to do so. they begun renovating the interior for these smaller children? (lowering door knobs, toilets, sinks, drinking fountains) Will these children be required to eat lunch with the grade 9-12’s in the cafeterias? How will younger children be shielded from the language and antics of the older students? If a playground is installed for public school aged children’s recess periods prior to September does that mean the older students will then loose their sports fields? Thus the end of Soccer, Rugby etc teams?
    These are simple yet complex issues on top of the busing, on top of the destruction of school pride, on top of the destruction of a sense of community, a sense of place, a simple sense of security in each and everyone of these students. Will these students ‘adjust’? yes of course they will, but is the school board prepared to take responsibility for what they will lose? is the school board prepared to take responsibility for each and every one of those children losing out on a natural childhood where society is constantly screaming about how terrible it is our children grow up too fast and are placed in positions they are not emotionally ready to be in…
    Why isn’t there another solution to this, why must children always pay with their innocence and childhood because adults can’t think outside of the box?

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