Minister re-emphasizes “joint-use opportunities” when asked about UCDSB closure decision

Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter

Will Minister Hunter compel UCDSB to offer R-O secondary space to Catholic board?

INGLESIDE — Ontario Education Minister Mitzie Hunter has again re-emphasized that rival school boards must work together on “joint-use opportunities,” following the recent decision of the Upper Canada District School Board to close 12 schools in the region.

To the bitter disappointment of Rothwell-Osnabruck School supporters, the board approved the elimination of Grade 7 to 12 education at the Ingleside-based school at its pivotal March 23 meeting.

While not asked specifically about R-O — or how the UCDSB might comply with her push for “joint-use” cooperation with the coterminous Catholic board in an Ingleside context — Hunter did comment generally on the overall March 23 closure decisions in an emailed statement to Nation Valley News:

We know that our schools play a vital role to the social fabric that ties great communities together. That’s why we want to ensure that the best possible solution is made for every community. Potential school consolidations are among the most difficult decisions that school boards and communities have to make.

We are monitoring this process very closely as it unfolds and remain concerned that decisions are made with the best possible outcome for students. As communicated recently, we expect local leaders to pursue joint-use opportunities encourage and support opportunities for community hubs, and ensure school boards and municipalities are working together to jointly plan and consider community impacts.

Next month, we will be conducting consultations in rural and northern communities to gather feedback on how we can further strengthen the future of rural education and enhance the quality and delivery of education. An arbitrary moratorium on school closures would overrule locally-elected school boards from making decisions based on the needs of their students and their communities. We remain committed to finding solutions that meet both local needs and the educational needs of all students across Ontario.

Hunter’s focus on joint use was foreshadowed by Premier Kathleen Wynne’s similar remarks made in person to Nation Valley News  last fall.