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School closures will hurt farming communities, says OFA rep

Under the watchful eye of a dozen police officers, close to 600 concerned citizens overflowed a second meeting held by the Upper Canada District School Board about potential school closures on November 14 in Cornwall.

Most were concerned abouy 29 potential school closures planned by the UCDSB after a board review of its facilities. Two of the schools in question are GDHS (Glengarry District High School) in Alexandria and Char-Lan District High School in Williamstown.

The schools are in a primarily agricultural area, which members of the Glengarry Federation of Agriculture concerned. “Farming is the number one industry in Glengarry,” said Martin Lang, representing the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA). “There are over 500 farm families and small communities that will suffer,” he said. Lang is a former dairy farmer, now cash cropper from Williamstown, as well as a 4H leader, volunteer firefighter and father whose children attended Char-Lan. “One out of every eight Canadian jobs is agriculturally related. We need these kids to stick around,” said Lang. “That won’t happen if we send them off to mega schools.”

He said sending kids to schools too far away will have a negative effect on agricultural communities. “Farming is a long term apprenticeship,” he said. “We need kids to have time to work on the farm, learn about agriculture and stay in our small communities. That won’t happen if they’re on the bus for hours, spending less time with their parents and not as much time on the farm.”

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