Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Progressive Conservatives Call for Ontario School Closure Moratorium

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Progressive Conservatives Call for Ontario School Closure Moratorium

Article excerpt

PCs call for school closure moratorium

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TORONTO - Ontario's Progressive Conservatives called Tuesday for a moratorium on school closures in the province and a review of the guidelines that determine them.

The Liberal government is trying to find savings on the backs of students by putting schools on the chopping block, said PC Leader Patrick Brown.

"School closures have a devastating impact on our communities," he said.

"The Liberal government's new rules completely ignore the value of our schools. It leaves our community representatives shut out from the process and recklessly reduces the amount of consultation required before closing a school, speeding the consultation process to just over two months."

Premier Kathleen Wynne noted those decisions are made by school boards when faced with demographic changes such as declining enrolment, but admitted there have been situations in which the boards haven't consulted properly or enough.

"Where those conversations are not happening, they should be happening," she said. "The minister of education will facilitate those conversations. But it behooves school trustees, school boards, municipalities and community groups to work together for the best of the community. That's a much more productive process than the blunt instrument of a moratorium that does not recognize the individual opportunities in every community."

Marianne Meed Ward, a Burlington councillor, has two children at a high school being considered for closure. If that happens, she said, the students who now can mostly walk to school will be bused to different locations.

"If our school closes it will tear a hole in the heart of our city," she said, adding that the process pits parents against each other. "It becomes a game of survivor, with every parent community saying, 'please don't close my school.'"

It's not clear just how many schools are being considered for closure as Education Minister Mitzie Hunter was unwilling to provide a number.

"It's not about that because (the school boards) are having conversations and they're getting input," she said. "I'm not going to provide you with an arbitrary number based on the question that you've asked. …

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