On a crisp February evening – dozens of rural residents made the trip south to Kingston in order to protest in front of the Limestone District School Board office.
Both young and old are worried for their local schools – which are on the chopping block as part of review by the Limestone Board.
Robin Hutcheon: “It really speaks to a model of education that doesn’t work right now. It’s not in the best interests of our students and it doesn’t help their well-being whatsoever.”
The school board says declining enrolment is the biggest issue facing schools like this one in Yarker.
Fewer students means less funding from the province, leaving schools at risk of running a deficit, something the Limestone Board isn’t allowed to do.
Paula Murray: “It is part of the formula that we are bound to abide by. As trustees our most important job is balancing a budget.”
But while the school board is worried about its budget, residents of Stone Mills Township are worried that without their school – the community will fade away.
Douglas Davison: “The sense of community is gone. The way they’re doing this, they’re fragmenting the community by sending some students, the older ones to one school – and the junior ones to another school.”
Paula Murray: “It is definitely the hardest, it’s the hardest part of this process. We certainly appreciate the difficulties that communities face during a PARC process.”
Recommendations from the Program and Accommodation Review Committee process will be released at the May 17th School Board meeting – giving an extra community work group the chance to come up with solutions that may satisfy both residents and the school board.
Should Yarker Family School actually close in 2018, its students would be moved to Odessa – meaning they’d spend more than an hour a day on the school bus.