Committee votes to close two local schools

By Kris Dubé, Fort Erie Times/Niagara Advance

The committee with the task of making a decision on the fate of four local elementary schools has given an indication of the direction it is heading in.

On Wednesday night, at Fort Erie Elementary School, the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) accommodation review committee voted in favour of one of a handful of options that have been considered over recent months.

In a 5-1 vote, the committee agreed closing Rose Seaton Public School and Fort Erie Elementary School would be the best option.

Students from these two institutions would be moved to General Vanier Public School to continue their education. Garrison Road Public School was part of the review, but will most likely remain untouched in the process.

Dave Schaubel, Fort Erie's DSBN trustee also said a new gymnasium would need to be built at General Vanier and the large amount of green space on the school's property makes this more possible.

This is just one of many possibilities that have been considered by the committee, he said.

"They've discussed a number of options," said Schaubel.

Although the trustee doesn't have a vote on the matter, he was comforted by the amount of professionalism the committee conducts itself with, especially during the meeting on Wednesday.

"It was a really intelligent discussion around the table," said Schaubel.

Although a more finite direction has been given from the committee, Schaubel says an ultimate decision will most likely arrive by February.

He says this is a difficult task to undertake, but schools are being under-utilized and the reality is that something needs to be done.

"These aren't easy decisions," said Schaubel.

"It's about success instead of sentiment."

Ward 1 Coun. Stephen Passero represented the Town of Fort Erie on the committee. He agrees schools can't continue to operate when they are only half-full.

"It limits the educational experience that students receive as it places many students into double and possibly triple split classes moving forward," said Passero.

He admits that closing schools is something that nobody would enjoy. Passero attended three of the four schools being discussed and therefore, understands how closures will have a sentimental and emotional impact on people.

"We can't use emotion to guide our decisions. The purpose of this review was to look at all scenarios and decide upon the one that provides the best education for the kids given all the circumstances of the present, and preparing for the future," said Passero.

"Sometimes the right decision and the easy decision are not the same decision," he added.

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