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The death of the little country school in Eastern Ontario

From Pakenham to Plantagenet, from Long Sault to Glen Tay, the little country school is under attack.

The Upper Canada District School Board is undergoing a massive review of its 86 schools, with an eye to closing as many as 29. Striking in the first of wave of 16 is the number of villages, hamlets or country crossroads that might lose the only elementary schools they’ve ever had.

Unlike in an urban setting, where students can deal with school closures as a program inconvenience or transport issue, the shutting of single-community schools is being viewed as the further ripping apart of Ontario’s rural fabric.

“It’s definitely an attack on rural living,” said Jennifer Downey, chair of the school council at Pakenham and part of a fifth-generation family on a cash-crop farm outside the village. “Our school is the heart of our community.”

Not only did the board just spend more than $200,000 on renovations on the 48-year-old building, but it forms part of a communal hub west of Ottawa that includes an arena, curling rink, library and daycare.

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