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MPP Wilson launches petition to protect rural schools

SHAWN GIILCK

DUNTROON -- The review of schools in Clearview Township is hitting a critical phase this week with the possibility looming that Duntroon Central School could close.

The issue has clearly struck a nerve with the community -- and with local MPP Jim Wilson, who has started a petition asking for the school not to be closed.

Wilson is urging local school boards to put the brakes on any school closures until after the Oct. 6 provincial election.

"I've heard this song before. In six months every local candidate will be agreeing with me and promising not to close our rural schools," said Wilson.

Wilson has launched a petition to save Duntroon from closing which is being circulated by parents and is also available at his office in Collingwood, online at www.jimwilsonmpp.com,and at the Clearview municipal office.

He's also urging parents to write directly to Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"The board doesn't know what's going to be in the provincial budget and they don't know what's going to be in the party platforms," said Wilson.

"The only thing they should know is that nobody in their right mind is going to campaign on closing schools."

Gord Kemp is a member of the Accommodation Review Committee doing an inventory on the elementary schools in Clearview, including Duntroon, Nottawa, Clearview Meadows, Byng, and Creemore/Nottawasaga.

"People would be very sad to see it go," said Kemp. "The biggest concern is the value it offers to the community."

"We are entering the third public meeting this Thursday," he said. "It's about three-quarters of the way through the process. We will present options we are considering."

Kemp said "right now we've laid out eight options -- some of them are interrelated.

"Not all of them consider Duntroon closing," he explained. "About half of them do. The discussion is about reallocating the students."

He said other options include "strengthening the schools and tying them together in the region.

"We need to make it more enticing to come back to our school system," he said. "A lot of people are choosing to do alternative systems instead of staying with us. We're looking at different options like a French program and gifted programs."

The school currently has 96 students enrolled, which is 75% of its capacity. That number has remained stable, said Kemp, since about 2002, which was a "peak year" for the school.

"Enrollment has declined and hit a plateau since then," he said.

"Duntroon Central School has played a huge part in shaping who my children have become," said parent Maureen Millar. "One of the things that makes our school unique is that all of the stud e nt s know and interact with each other from kindergarten to Grade 8.

"They have programs such as lunch buddies, reading buddies and bus buddies were older students help to mentor younger students."

The meeting is scheduled for Nottawa Public School on Thursday at 7 p.m..



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