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Province-wide School Closures Seen as War on Ontario Communities

OCTOBER 25, 2016, OWEN SOUND, ON – A group representing concerned citizens from across Ontario, the Ontario Alliance Against School Closures (OAASC), is calling on the Ministry of Education to immediately halt school closures and scrap the current Pupil Accommodation Guideline.

In its open letter to Education Minister Mitzie Hunter, the OAASC outlines a few recommendations in response to what it sees as the largest and fastest school closure sweep in Ontario’s history. They include:

  • that the recently revised PARG (Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline) is flawed and must be rewritten;
  • that ARC reviews be immediately suspended until a democratic guideline is in place;
  • that the Government of Ontario immediately put a moratorium on school closures;
  • that the Government of Ontario commission a study to determine the effects of extensive school closures on the health of our children and our communities.

OAASC spokesperson Susan MacKenzie says Ontarians are concerned about the closures being initiated under the new guideline, which threaten to shutter 1 in every 8 schools across their communities .

“Last March, when the Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline was rewritten, communities lost a significant voice at the table giving school boards the freedom to ram these school closures through without resistance,” MacKenzie says. “Community schools are under siege, carried by this tidal wave of closures across the province,” she says.” The revised guideline has pitted the province and school boards against our communities”

The OAASC members representing various school districts are also circulating a letter to media outlets across Ontario to call on the Ministry of Education to put a halt to the drastic policy measures that are hurting students and school communities.

The group has stated that closing schools is a short-term money-saving move that is particularly harsh on communities outside the GTA where schools are social and economic generators for the area, and often with historical importance to the community. It also appears that school closures are unreasonably disenfranchising children in rural and northern regions. For example, in Sudbury, closing schools is creating such severe transportation problems that students are facing a four to five-hour return trip every day. In these communities, some students board the bus at 6:40 am and get home at 6:30 pm.

“We’re paying a steep price for cuts in education. It is time to see beyond the boundaries of Toronto and the GTA,” MacKenzie says. “Kathleen Wynne needs to realize that she is Premier of the province of Ontario, not premier of Toronto.”

The group calls on the Ministry of Education and the provincial government to make policies congruent with the needs and socio-economic conditions in communities across the province. They are making plans to take their fight to Queen’s Park in November to further voice their concerns and call for action.

For more information contact:

Susan MacKenzie (media relations/spokesperson) 519-332-2765 (Sarnia)

Amy Austin (media contact) 705-970 2556 (Barrie)

Diane Ferguson (media contact) 519-794-3331 (Wiiliamsford)

Email: oaasc.exec@outlook.com

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