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ARC recommends Duntroon Central stays open

Morgan Ian Adams

DUNTROON - A committee reviewing elementary schools in Clearview Township is recommending this hamlet's elementary school stays open.

That's contrary to the Simcoe County District School Board planning staff, who recommended at the outset of the accommodation review committee process that Duntroon Central close and the students moved to elementary schools in Nottawa, Stayner and Creemore.

On Thursday night, more than 100 people crowded into the gym at Duntroon Central for the Clearview ARC's final public meeting to hear the committee - made up of school community representatives from Byng, Clearview Meadows, Nottawa, and Creemore and Nottawasaga - present its draft recommendations.

The crowd burst into applause as committee member and Clearview Township councillor Thom Paterson concluded his presentation of the ARC's recommendations, that included the school remain open.

Paterson said the board should consider creative ways to keep the school open and encourage an increase in the student population, including the possibility the school be the host site in Clearview for an extended French program.

A final working session for the ARC will be held next week, and ARC chair and Area 5 superintendent John Dance said a report should be presented to the director of education in mid-March.

There will be special board meetings to hear delegations in May, with the board making a decision something in June.

In the draft report, Paterson noted that the committee "consideres a local school an integral part of rural communities."

To that end, the committee is recommending as a long-term solution that the provincial ministry of education review its Rural School Policy because the current policy doesn't reflect the reality of what we see," said Paterson.

The committee also pointed at recent development approvals for residential projects in Nottawa and Creemore, noting that accommodating Duntroon students at those schools "would contribute to their over-capacity."

The committee is also suggesting Clearview children presently going to school in Wasaga Beach be 'repatriated', which would create movement and increase enrolment in elementary schools in Clearview.

"We need the continued support from the community to keep Duntroon open, because it will be a difficult sell to the board," said Paterson. "We have some creative ideas and compelling arguments, but we're not going to do this without the support of the community."

Collingwood-Clearview school board trustee Caroline Smith acknowledged it may be a tough fight at the school board, given the board's many priorities - as well as several other similar ARC situations in other parts of the county.

"We (the local ARC) have to be able to produce significant reasons that this is meeting the needs of students," she said. "But we also have a lot of things to bring to bear to bump up enrollment numbers; anything is possible, but you don't know if you don't try.

"If we can figure out a plan that makes the public happy, fills the school and is good for the long-term, the trustees will be happy," she said. "But we couldn't come back with the status quo."

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