Next year Arlington Middle School will close its doors forever. But it didn’t have to be this way, says local parent Robin Fraser.
On June 23, school trustees voted in favour of closing the school and expanding and upgrading four elementary schools — JR Wilcox, Cedarvale, Rawlinson and Humewood.
The vote followed months of meetings, known cumulatively as an Accommodation Review, looking at how to tackle enrolment and space issues in that cluster of schools.
Fraser, who has a son graduating from Arlington and a daughter at nearby Humewood, fought for alternatives to closures.
“After my deputation to move (Arlington) into a sports school there was a healthy discussion,” she said. “(Then) they all voted to close Arlington except (trustee) Ms. Maria Rodrigues.”
The plan is to close Arlington by September 2011.
Fraser has concerns about the impact of the closure, including the disruption of moving next year’s grade 7 students to other schools for their grade 8 year.
“It affects my daughter in Humewood. They haven’t shown us if there’s enough cash to make the remaining schools (kindergarten) to 8,” she said. “Unless they can show me they will put in proper resources and (experienced) grade 7 and 8 teachers, I will probably put my daughter somewhere else.”
Another review in the ward focused on schools in the Davisville area. Trustees voted to keep all schools with higher enrollment open and dedicated $4 million in improvements to those schools.
“I’m hearing talks about reinvesting in Davisville. I’m not hearing about investment to our (schools) in this ARC,” Fraser said.
Local trustee Josh Matlow said a local committee — with parent reps — will be set up in September to discuss the specific improvements to the remaining schools.
He didn’t have specifics on the amount allocated for the retrofits for the expanding schools, but said when the design team decides what’s needed, there will be enough money to fund those priorities.
Education activist Chris Glover said there’s an economic impact to the school closures, and it’s bad optics to close a school like Arlington, which is located in a low– to middle-income community.
“In Davisville, they are looking to get money and repair schools but it shouldn’t come from the eight schools they voted to close,” said Glover, a member of Campaign for Public Education.
And while enrolment may declining now, that will change soon enough, cautioned Glover.
“Enrolment is down this year in elementary by 1,000 but will increase next year by 150, not including full-day kindergarten.”
But Matlow disputes that claim.
“If you look at the data we have lost thousands and thousands of students. I’ve heard it’s supposed to level off in 10 years. There’s no suggestion enrolment is going up.”
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