Prince Edward County is calling on the province to stay the execution of the Accommodation Review Process that is studying the future of schools across Ontario.
In November 2016, the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board revealed plans that would change the future six of the County’s eight schools. The proposed recommendation closes Queen Elizabeth Public School in Picton and Pinecrest Memorial in Bloomfield. Students would move to Prince Edward Collegiate Institute in 2017. Following that Sophiasburgh public school would close and students would also be moved to PECI. The recommendations also call for a new school to be constructed in Wellington for CML Snider and Kente students. There are no recommendations for Athol-South Marysburgh and Massassaga-Rednersville.
Across the board, recommendations include changes to 19 schools as the board grapples with capital renewal needs of $250 million over the next decade and low enrolment numbers.
Without any discussion Tuesday night, council unanimously supported a motion tabled by councillor Bill Roberts that requests Ontario Minister of Education Mitzie Hunter initiate an immediate stay of the ARP until a review of the impacts on small rural communities can be studied, completed and the results and recommendations be considered. The motion stated school closures impact single-school small rural communities in all educational, social and economic aspects to a far greater degree than those impacts in multi-school urban communities.
An earlier motion also supported the Counties of Bruce and Grey in their requests for the Minister of Education to rewrite the Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline (PARG). It asked the province to take into consideration community and economic value, consideration of rural communities and provide for a more democratic process.
Mayor Robert Quaiff said he will be meeting with Minister Hunter this coming Monday at the upcoming Rural Ontario Municipal Association Conference. He said the plans are to deliver the resolutions to her and ask her to slow the process down until municipalities can be better prepared and take a look at it.
Mayor Quaiff recognized that ultimately it is a school board decision.
The resolution will be forwarded to Premier Kathleen Wynne, OMAFRA Minister Jeff Leal, MPP Todd Smith, Hastings and Prince Edward School Board, Community School Alliance, and all municipalities in Ontario.
In other school related news, council is celebrating the PECI senior girls’ basketball team for a successful regular season in 2016.
The senior girls won the 2016 Bay of Quinte Championship and the 2016 AA Central Ontario Secondary School Athletics Championship.
Mayor Quaiff also recognized the Panthers for taking part in the 2016 AA Ontario Federation of School Athletic Association along with their third place finish in 2016 World Youth Basketball Tournament in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.