Ontario school closings will be put on hold as province reviews process

June 29, 2017
Article Source
Toronto Star

The government has put a temporary halt on any future school closings across the province, saying it plans to overhaul the entire process after hearing concerns from hard-hit rural and northern communities.

Following a number of public consultations held recently in smaller Ontario towns, it became clear changes are needed, said Education Minister Mitzie Hunter.

"I want people to know that this is ensuring that we provide excellent education in every region of this province," she told the Star in a telephone interview Wednesday afternoon after making the announcement at a school in Bridgenorth, north of Peterborough.

"When a board looks at the possibility of closing a school, it is a difficult decision for everyone concerned … we want to ensure we improve the process … (we are) taking a number of steps to get this process right" especially in more remote areas.

The move was immediately criticized by PC Leader Patrick Brown, whose party has repeatedly raised the issue in the legislature.

The new plan "does nothing for schools in cities throughout the province that remain on the chopping block, including schools that service students with special needs and schools that are operating at nearly 100 per cent capacity," he said, asking why the government — up until now — has rejected a moratorium.

"Now, a year out from an election, they have apparently changed their minds," he also said. "Rural and Northern Ontario have been nothing but an afterthought to this government. They only seem to acknowledge their existence when an election rolls around."

While the province already modified the school closing process about two years ago, Hunter said "we cannot ignore what we heard and having that engagement process in 10 communities across the province, allows us to make the process even better."

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