What could be the future of schools within the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board is becoming much clearer as the due date for the final accommodation review report draws near.
On Monday, board trustees met for a student enrolment school capacity committee meeting to fine tune a host of recommendations ahead of the final accommodation review report due on June 19.
In November 2016, the Board revealed a long-term capital and accommodation review of 19 of its schools in Belleville, Prince Edward County and Centre Hastings in order to address $250 million in capital renewal needs and declining enrolment. Since then there have been multiple accommodation review committee and public meetings aimed at developing solutions.
On Monday, trustees opted to turn down a previous recommendation that would see Moira Secondary School close and students move to Quinte Secondary School after students, parents and community members came to the table in May with concerns of losing the city’s only east end public high school, destination programming and Bay of Quinte Mohawk students to other school boards. Instead an alternate option (the original option 1) was tabled by Belleville trustee Dave Patterson recommending the board keep Moira open and close Quinte in 2018.
“We all arrived here with grave concern and fortitude given the volume of substantial input from the public that has challenged the proposal,” said Belleville/Thurlow trustee Dave Patterson. “This process calls for us to look at data for adequate programming. This recommendation has us look at the whole system and programming. Instead of a mega school, we will have a viable secondary site with robust programming while ensuring the community is maintained. Both schools are rich in history however we believe this is the right option.”
After going through the process, referring to resources and public input, Director of Education Mandy Savery-Whiteway thought it was best to honour the input they received and back that initial recommendation on Moira and Quinte.
Kathryn Wills Brown was pleased and relieved leaving the meeting. As a grandparent of a Moira student, she was vocal at the last public meeting and on social media about keeping the secondary school open.
“No matter what we decide, a consolidation or a closure of a school, somebody somewhere is going to be disenfranchised,” said Wills Brown in an interview. “It’s not an easy decision any way they do it. The outcome for this one I believe is more equitable for east end Belleville but Belleville as a whole. For east end Belleville and for the Tyendinaga Mohawk Reserve this is the right decision to make at the end of the day. It’s a difficult one but we are hoping it will approve at the end of the day.”
Another change from the previous recommendations is trustees suggested Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria be consolidated pending a Ministry approval for a new K-8 school. Trustees are recommending it be built at the current Queen E site or another east end location. Students at Harry J. Clarke would remain at their current site. If Ministry approval/funding isn’t granted then the board would go after a renovation of Queen E.
In Centre Hastings, trustees are recommending keeping Madoc Township Public School open by moving former grade 7 and 8 students back to their home school from Madoc Public School. Parents in attendance applauded the news that there is a possibility students in the rural area could stay at their school. The board is also recommending the consolidation of MTP, MPS and Centre Hastings Secondary School pending submission of a business case to the Ministry for a new K-12 school in the Madoc area. If approval isn’t granted, the board is looking at consolidating MPS with CHSS and will seek Ministry approval for a renovation of the high school.
In the County, there were no changes other than trustees are granting the Sophiasburgh committee time to build a business case to turn the school into a community hub instead of closing and moving students to Queen Elizabeth then on to PECI.
The Sophiasburgh ARC committee has been working to keep the school open to offer services such as day care and a community kitchen. The group was given until May 1 to have a plan in place with contract agreement or the school will close and students will move to PECI in September 2018.
As it stands now Grade K-6 students from Pinecrest are moving to Queen E this fall, then on to PECI in 2018 after both public schools are closed.