Parents protest closure of York Region school
Kayla Goodfield, CTV News Toronto
Published Thursday, February 16, 2017 7:09PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, February 16, 2017 10:33PM EST
Parents and children gathered to protest their concern about the potential closure of a Catholic elementary school in Maple.
According to York Regional Catholic School Board, they must close one of three schools in the area by the end of the school year. Of those three schools, Our Lady of Peace is their preferred choice despite being at 97 per cent capacity.
Parents who gathered outside Our Lady of Peace to protest told CTV News Toronto that they are very upset with this motion, which was introduced by the school board on Sept. 27, 2016.
Protester Sandro Pelaccia said he does not understand why the school board chose this school in particular.
“They’re supposed to look at schools that are underutilized and instead they make a mockery of it and try to close a school that is at 97 per cent,” he said.
The board had to contemplate closing the school after the Ministry of Education pushed school districts to find efficiencies, including looking at school occupancy rates.
In the area of South Maple, Our Lady of Peace was singled out by the York Catholic District School Board because of what they say is a decline in enrollment.
Our Lady of Peace runs a French immersion program, as well as an English track program. The board says that enrollment for the English track program is declining.
York Regional Catholic School Board Communications Manager Sonia Gallo told CTV News Toronto that since enrolment for the English program has been decreasing, the board must focus on this school in particular.
“When we review a particular area we look at what the population is in terms of demographics for the next few years and we focus on areas where there is 60 per cent declining enrolment and that is the case (at Our Lady of Peace),” she said.
The Chair of the Board Carol Cotton told CTV News Toronto in an email that they are very aware of the concerns expressed by parents at Our Lady of Peace ahead of its potential closure.
“The provincial government has set clear expectations for school boards across Ontario to address surplus capacity due to declining enrolment to ensure effective use of Board resources,” she said.
The proposed closure would move French immersion students to Blessed Trinity, which is nearby and three-quarters full. As well, English students would be moved to Father John Kelly, which is also close and less than half-full.
However, some parents, such as Tammy Pascucci, said this move would separate family members.
“Some (families) have siblings in both French and English, so that would be very problematic for them as well,” she said.
As well, another parent Shaju Matthew said that the reason their family moved to the area was for his children to attend this school in particular.
“We moved specifically to this area because they have a good French immersion program and we would like to see them stay here,” he said.
As well, in addition to the scheduled protest outside of the school, an online petition has been set up in hopes of saving the school.
“We need to come together as a community to voice our concern regarding the current proposal to close Our Lady of Peace Catholic School,” the online petition reads. “This decision will not only effect the current student population but also the growing population of young families in our community.”
The petition is currently about 200 supporters away from its goal of 1,000 people.
The Board said either way, one school will close in June and the alternative option is closing Father John Kelly instead of Our Lady of Peace.
If the current proposed closure of closing Our Lady of Peace is finalized, its doors would close in June.
The final report on the matter will be published on Feb. 24 and then the board of trustees will make their decision at a meeting on Feb. 28.