Board of trustees will look at committee's recommendations

By Kris Dubé, Fort Erie Times/Niagara Advance

The District School Board of Niagara (DSBN)'s accommodation review committee is one step closer to closing two local schools and moving students under one roof at General Vanier Public School.

On Wednesday evening, the committee approved a list of recommendations, that will be presented to the DSBN board.

If the board approves the recommendations made by the committee, Fort Erie Elementary School will be closed for instructional purposes as of August 31, 2013 and students residing south of the Queen Elizabeth Way, along with those that use the special needs program, will be re-located to Garrison Road Public School. Remaining students from Fort Erie Elementary will be re-directed to General Vanier Public School, on Torrance Street.

Rose Seaton Public School will be closed for instructional purposes as of August 31, 2013 and students who would attend class there, will be re-located to General Vanier.

The Parent and Family Literacy Centre, currently at Rose Seaston Public School, will be re-located to General Vanier.

The current gymnasium at General Vanier Public School will be retrofitted into three classrooms and two classrooms, along with a new gymnasium and changeroom will be built onto General Vanier.

Administration and staff areas will be retrofitted to accommodate the needs of school administration and staff.

A bus drop off area will also be part of the plans.

The proposed changes haven't been met without criticism, especially from a group of parents whose children attend Rose Seaton Public School.

Mark Brooks sits on the parent council at the local elementary school on Emerick Street, and he is not pleased with the direction the committee appears to be heading in.

Since the committee held its first meeting in November 2011, he and a group of other concerned parents have opposed the potential closure of Rose Seaton.

He feels amalgamation is the right way to go, but does not agree that moving students under one roof at General Vanier specifically, is the answer.

"From the beginning, I've understood that there are three schools that are under-utilized," said Brooks on Wednesday night.

"It only makes fiscal, common sense to combine all the schools," he added.

But his reservations about the changes fall on the fact that Rose Seaton is one of the schools that will likely close its doors.

In his opinion, Fort Erie Elementary and Rose Seaton are in good enough shape and have the capacity to be the considered as the chosen location once the amalgamation comes into effect.

"We don't need to build a new school, we already have schools in existence that the children can fit in," said Brooks.

Since his children will have moved on to high school once the changes are put in place, he said his concerns come more as a resident of the north end, that will lose two schools with one swipe of the pen when the process is done.

"It really doesn't affect me on an emotional level."

Dave Schaubel, Fort Erie and Port Colborne's trustee at the DSBN said he appreciates the passion and dedication that parents like Brooks have displayed throughout the input process.

But he feels the focus of the dialogue should be more about what will take place in the schools, instead of how neighbourhoods will be impacted by the closure of schools.

"It's more about programming than it is about the community, but schools are part of the community and I get that as well," said Schaubel.

On Feb. 14, the recommendations approved by the committee will be taken to all DSBN trustees and he expects all the input heard until this point will be considered.

"Hopefully, it will all be taken into account."

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