QUEEN’S PARK – Leeds-Grenville MPP Steve Clark wasted no time in putting the potential closure of seven elementary schools in his riding on the agenda at Queen’s Park as MPPs returned for the spring legislative session on Tuesday, February 21.
In Question Period and later during Members’ Statements, Clark repeated his call for Education Minister Mitzie Hunter to implement an immediate moratorium on school closures.
“I called for a moratorium on school closures last fall to give us time to develop a provincial rural education strategy. Well, it’s hard to plan for the future when there is no tomorrow for so many schools,” stated Clark in Question Period.
Clark noted the final report from the Upper Canada District School Board proposes to close one in four of the board’s elementary schools in Leeds-Grenville. Two of those schools are located in the two fastest-growing municipalities in the riding according to recent Census data.
“Does the Minister actually believe closing so many schools is creating better learning opportunities for students?” asked Clark, adding. “Will the Minister act before it’s too late by stopping these closures and forming an all-party committee to come up with real solutions?”
Clark noted the all-party committee structure has been used to great effect on a variety of issues, most recently to produce some excellent recommendations on mental health and addictions and developmental services.
“We need a provincial strategy on the future of rural education in Ontario and we can make it happen through the all-party committee process and hearing from school boards, municipalities, parents, students and community organizations,” stressed Clark.
“All that’s missing is leadership from the minister who, instead, is offering only platitudes while the future of a dozen schools in the Upper Canada board alone is in doubt.”