February 16th, 2017 by

County ARC makes recommendations to HPEDSB

Kristina Kelly speaks to the Accommodation Review Committees at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute in Picton on February 16, 2017. (Photo: Nicole Kleinsteuber / Quinte News)

Accommodation Review Committees in Prince Edward County have some recommendations when it comes to potential school closures and consolidations.

On Thursday night, about 70 representatives from six County public schools came together to work on alternative options to the Hastings and Prince Edward School Board’s accommodation review.

Six of the County’s eight schools are under review as the HPEDSB addresses capital renewal needs of $250 million over the next decade and low enrolment numbers. The recommendation calls for: the closure of Pinecrest Memorial Elementary School and Picton’s Queen Elizabeth School and move students to Prince Edward Collegiate Institute for September 2017; close Sophiasburgh Central School and move students to Prince Edward Collegiate Institute for September 2018; close CML Snider School in Wellington and Kente Public School and then seek Ministry of Education funding/approval to build a new K-8 elementary school on the CML Snider property or in Wellington for September 2020.

Each of the ARCs is comprised of the school principal, a teacher, non-teaching staff member, parents, two municipal/business/community members and one intermediate or secondary student.

Evelyn Wilson a member of the Kente ARC suggested closing Massassaga-Rednersville Public School (not a part of the review, along with Athol-South Marysburgh) and moving all of the students to Kente. The suggestion was provided in a previous study by Watson & Associates that strictly looked at capital costs.

“I love Mass-Red,” said Wilson in an interview. “My kids went there. It’s a small school.  The kids have to go down to Kente for Grades 7 and 8 anyways. So it actually makes sense because that school is getting smaller and smaller.”

Wilson said she has talked to families that have said they will move to Trenton or Belleville and leave the County if the changes go ahead.

“That’s not what you want,” she said. “You want rural atmosphere of a school. It’s a more practical solution so the kids in the north part of the County continue to get the perfect education that doesn’t have them sitting on buses for hours a day.”

No decision about Massassaga-Rednersville Public School will be included in this accommodation review said Superintendent of Business Services Nick Pfeiffe.

She also suggested the new school build be proposed for Kente accommodating both CML Snider and Massassaga-Rednersville students.

She said it would be more central as CML is roughly 12 minutes from Kente and the bus ride from the northern portion of the County to Wellington is much longer.

When it comes to a new build, Kristina Kelly who is an employee at CML and has two sons attending the school said she would like to see it kept at the current site with a portion of the old building kept.

Most groups agreed they would like to see the public schools on the chopping block reduced to a K to Grade 6 with Grades 7 and 8 heading to PECI to solve enrolment needs.

There were also suggestions to move Pinecrest and Sophiasburgh students into Queen Elizabeth until the renovations at PECI are complete. One rep also stated it would ensure a smoother transition for Sophiasburgh students who are ‘anxious about being the last to move in.’

Most groups expressed concerns over lengthy bus rides for kids, especially young elementary students. A rep from PECI also called for more collaboration with the municipality over economic impacts and tight timelines.

Pfeiffe said there were a lot of good solutions put forward and they will eventually go to the board trustees for evaluation along with staff recommendations for a final report due back on June 19.

“Hopefully some of the recommendations will be considered,” said Pfeiffe.

The next ARC meeting is March 29 and a public meeting follows on April 20.