In the Wednesday print edition of The Times, we incorrectly stated that HPEDSB trustees voted to accept a plan from the school board.
In fact, the plan was simply tabled and discussed. There was no vote.
Closure and consolidation plans move forward, but they’re not done yet
On Monday afternoon, trustees of the Hastings Prince Edward district school board heard revised proposals for County schools. The new proposal may allow for more time to integrate students into a kindergarten to grade 12 school at the current Prince Edward Collegiate institute, and will allow for Massassauga-Rednersville to participate in a discussion on school closures in the western half of the County.
The plan removes CML Snider and Kente public schools from a proposal to close and consolidate schools, although the measure is temporary. HPEDSB will revisit the ARC process for those schools in the next few years, this time with the inclusion of Massassauga- Rednersville. That school is for kindergarten to grade six, and usually feeds into Kente for grades seven and eight. Originally, the plan was to close Kente, build a new school in place of CML and leave Massassauga- Rednersville alone.
Frustration from parents of Kente students was palpable, as the group tasked with reviewing the original plan insisted on calling themselves the Kente and Mass-Red ARC (Accommodation Review Committee).
The remaining proposal changed a staggered school closing to a more uniform one. The original proposal would see Pinecrest and Queen Elizabeth schools moving to PECI in 2017 and Sophiasburgh following in 2018. The updated proposal moves Pinecrest and Sophiasburgh students to Queen Elizabeth for 2017, with all grade seven and eight students moving to the high school, while PECI will be renovated to accommodate kindergarten through grade six students for the fall of 2018, at which point Queen Elizabeth would close.
Members of the Sophiasburgh ARC were present at the meeting. Sophiasburgh had brought forward a proposal to build a commercial kitchen onsite at Sophiasburgh Central School, turning the school into a community hub with a specialized culinary and agricultural program.
The board turned the proposal down.
“There were a lot of questions from trustees about how we got from what the original proposal was to the revised. I was interested to know what happened to the hub idea in Sophiasburgh,” said Prince Edward County trustee Jennifer Cobb. “The answer to that question was that there were lots of letters of support, but no real money on the table. It was a great idea to build a commercial kitchen, but the reality was they had no money, they wanted the board to build the kitchen. The board looked at it and said, ‘we’re trying to save money and that will cost us money. We’re trying to improve programming for kids, and that isn’t really going to improve programming for kids, more like community access’.”
Cobb has become a stronger and more vocal advocate over the course of this process. She has attended all the ARC meetings in the County and as many in Belleville and Centre Hastings as she could manage. But she says that although trustees vote together for accommodation review proposals that separately affect schools in Belleville, Centre Hastings and Prince Edward County, it’s up to each trustee to advocate for their community.
“I can’t be everywhere, and I can’t do everything,” says Cobb. “Trustee, for the most part, is a volunteer role… I feel like I’m doing my due diligence because I’m there to represent my community and I need to hear from my community, and then synthesize that feedback and feed it back into the process.”
It’s not over. This Friday, May 12, from 6:30 until 8:30, a delegation from the ministry of education will be at the Isaiah Tubbs conference centre in Prince Edward County to engage the community, to listen. If school closures are inevitable, there are many who would like to know why those closures are happening more frequently in rural areas, and more in south-eastern Ontario, where most provincial ridings are held by the minority Conservatives.
On May 25, trustees will listen to anyone who has given five days’ notice for a deputation about the new plan. It’s not until June 19 that trustees will vote and the plan, at that point, will be solidified.
There’s still time to get involved.