Local school board trustee wants school accommodation review halted

MANITOULIN—A Manitoulin Island trustee on the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) wants the issue of schools closing and the accommodation review to be put on hold until the provincial parliament considers a motion putting a moratorium on school closures and restoring top up funding that has put hundreds of schools futures in doubt.

“There is now a motion on the floor of the provincial parliament in regards to this,” stated Larry Killens, last Friday. “I am bringing forward a motion on this issue for our meeting next week (November 8).”

The motion, which Mr. Killens will be looking for a fellow trustee to second, or he will bring it up under trustee remarks at the meeting states, “be it resolved that at the request and urging of Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark, who has said in a release he has asked the board (in his area) to put its own accommodation review on whole while I, and my colleagues in the Ontario P.C. Caucus, put the pressure on the government to come up with answers that respect the future of our rural communities.”

“We can’t make these important decisions based on initial reports that include no consultation with the communities affected and the only recommendations being widespread school closures,” Mr. Killens motion reads. Mr. Killens motion also says, “in addition, MPP (Steve) Clark sent Upper Canada District School Board Chairman Jeff McMillan an open letter asking trustees to pass a resolution of support for a moratorium and restoration of funding.”

“I move that the Accommodation Review Process currently  unfolding in the Rainbow District School Board area be placed on hold until parliamentarians have the opportunity to resolve educational issues,” continues Mr. Killens motion.

In a members statement at Queen’s Park last week Mr. Clark called for a moratorium on school closures and the restoration of top-up funding that would help keep rural schools open. He said a fair process is needed to determine the future of rural education, indicating the schools should not be looked at for closure without work being carried out with parents, school boards, municipalities and MPPs to develop long term solutions.”

The motion before the House of Commons states, “that, in the opinion of this House, the government should place a moratorium on rural school closures and suspend Pupil Accommodation Reviews until it has developed a long term plan for rural education by consulting with all local rural school boards, school communities, students, and municipalities and that it consider the value of local education, ensures students receive a quality education that includes access to important extra-curricular activities and after school employment, and that it establishes a stable, sustainable funding formula for rural areas.”

Mr. Killens stressed, “this has nothing to do with decisions being made by the RDSB and our administration. I have full confidence the accommodation reviews will be done in the least intrusive way to our schools in these recommendations. Closing schools is the last resort. I want the accommodation reviews to be put on hold by our board until parliament votes to restore funding.”