Court to decide fate of Ontario’s oldest high school

WATCH: Local supporters of KCVI are lobbying for the historic high school to remain open.

TORONTO – A three judge panel of Divisional Court will rule on whether the closure of Ontario’s oldest publicly-funded high school can proceed.

Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute was founded in 1792 but facing declining enrolment in the city, the Limestone District School Board voted to close it and another high school, QECVI—a decision that was effectively approved by the Ministry of Education earlier this year with an agreement to provide $30 million for a new school to replace them both.

A passionate group of supporters of KCVI filed a motion to stop the shut down, arguing the board did not follow proper procedures and withheld crucial information.

“The courts have said regularly that the closure of a school is deeply important to a community and we think we’ve demonstrated a case here that this was one of those rare cases when the decision should be overturned,” said Paul Champ, lawyer for Save KCVI.

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About 30 community groups in Ontario have asked courts to stop school closings, with only four succeeding.

The school board contends that it followed all the appropriate steps.

“Our priority was programming for our students, to make sure we could provide the best for them,” said Limestone District School Board chair Laurie French outside Osgoode Hall on Friday.

“We recognize that there are those who are not happy about moving forward and we’ll work through that process.”

KCVI boasts of a long list of famous former students: Sir John A. Macdonald, author Robertson Davies, Don Cherry and the members of the band The Tragically Hip.

The Hip’s guitarist, Rob Baker, made the trip to Toronto to watch the proceedings.

“History does matter and should matter,” he said. “But you don’t keep it open just because it’s an old school; you keep it open because it works.”

Limestone Board Chair French said that while the legal proceedings have caused delays, planning continues. An architect has been chosen to design the new school but a site has not yet been chosen.  KCVI and QECVI will not close until the new facility is built, likely no sooner than the 2016-17 academic year, pending the court’s ruling.

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The judges reserved their decision, which is not expected until January. KCVI supporters said that even if they lose, they will fight on, planning to pressure several new trustees who were elected in the municipal elections to reverse the closure.