By Lynn Macnab
Close to 200 people gathered on November 3 at the Sandfield Center to listen to MPP Grant Crack explain why Glengarry District High School (GDHS) is slated for closure, and cheer on Glengarry SOS member David Filion, who criticized him.
A member of the GDHS steering committee against 29 potential school closures, Filion was unimpressed with Crack’s explanations.
In his address, Crack explained school closures are happening all over Ontario, including in Toronto.“There are too many empty school spaces, studies show no increase in future enrollment and unfortunately GDHS is an aging building with a gym over 30 years old,” he said. However, he said he was concerned when he saw the report that suggested closure. “The report is reasonable though shy on a number of issues,” he admitted. “It’s not final but it’s responsible.”
Crack said he would do everything he could to ensure the viability of the high school and offered a suggestion that the Upper Canada School District School Board (UCDSB) join with the local english Catholic school board. He concluded his speech by saying he would not support the dismantling of rural communities.
Former GDHS students Tamany and Sally Booth attended the meeting and asked Crack if he really believed shutting down a Toronto school is the same as shutting down a rural school in an area with few other schools. “In Toronto that doesn’t destroy a community. It’s different when there’s only one school in town,” said Booth. “That is dismantling a community.”
Jeff Manley, a North Glengarry councilor, explained council has retained Alexandria lawyer Judith Wilcox to help fight the closure. “We need people to go to the school board website, read papers, write letters and go to facebook,” Manley said.
Scott Campbell, a representative for ARC (Accommodation Review Committee) explained how the organization is acting as a conduit for decisions, to consolidate information and then submit it to the board. “This is a grassroots movement, not a charity,” he said. Campbell explained that the sale of SOS (Save our School) signs and shirts has generated over $4,000 and that the money will be used to further the cause.
That will include paying for buses scheduled to take people to the next regional meeting November 14 at General Vanier School in Cornwall. Buses will be leaving at 4:15 p.m. and 5:15 p.m. from the arena in Alexandria.
Joslyn MacGillivray has a daughter in grade 10 and another who’s graduated. She’s concerned how the closure will affect the students from abroad and Montreal who come to study at GDHS. She said there are Montreal students who ride the VIA train every day to attend GDHS to learn English. “It’s part of the reason VIA has now decided to implement another stop in Alexandria and give students a great discount,” she argued.
Before thanking Crack for attending, Filion had a few more words. “These closures will have a detrimental effect on our communities. It’s Draconian,” he said.