Tensions were high in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board room on Jan. 25 as parents fought against the closure of schools across the city. Many people came forward to express their concerns about how the board was handling the situation, and whether it was even the right decision to close the schools.
Several parents brought up the issue that the closures seem rushed, and poorly planned. Many expressed concerns about the unique programs each school has to offer, and what the students would lose in result of closing them.
A major topic that was constantly brought up was the board’s decision to close many of the dual-track schools (schools that offer classes in both French immersion and English). The closure of these schools could cause siblings to be separated, and school life to become less diverse.
Dr. Lauren Reid, a parent of two children at a dual-track school supposed to close, expressed her concerns to the board, “We feel it’s important to send our kids to a French immersion school, however we would also want to send our kids to a community school that has multiple tracks and is inclusive.” Reid also said she does not want her children having to bus to school. She said she wants a “diversity of school life close to home.”
Another concern of many parents was that the board was not communicating with them about the decisions being made. This is a particular issue for the parents in the Merivale Family of Schools because a lot of the parents are newcomers to Canada who do not speak English.
Gemma Nicholson, a parent from the area spoke angrily to the board about their method of communication to these schools. She said that translation of the material was not provided adequately, with a pamphlet being handed out in Arabic, which had been translated by Google Translate and made no sense.
Gemma explained to the board about why these parents do not attend these meetings “A major part of their culture is to not challenge authority. They are not going to come to this meeting and say ‘don’t close our school.’”
Overall, Gemma said that she was very disappointed with the board’s lack of “transparency” in making decisions, and involving the parents in discussions.
Granda Kopytko, also a parent, was very frustrated with the board’s means of backing up their decisions. Referencing several articles, the school board justifies that closing middle schools is okay, because Kindergarden-to-grade-8 schools have less of a negative impact on children anyways.
The board backed up their arguments by quoting several research articles. However Kopytko said that “the review within your [the school board’s] report is an example of poor research.” She said the board’s argument misquoted and misunderstood the articles, and even fabricated sources.
After her delegation, board member Shawn Menard said “You have raised really interesting issues,” and agreed to talk with her outside of the meeting. While other board members argued her facts by further quoting other articles.
The school board will make its final decision on March 1.