Media blackout at public meeting on Ontario rural schools

MPP Monte McNaughton at Queen's Park on May 18, 2017.
MPP Monte McNaughton at Queen's Park on May 18, 2017. YouTube

The Ministry of Education is hosting a public meeting next week to discuss the future of rural schools in Ontario, but with one caveat — no media will be allowed.

Parliamentary assistants will be in Thedford on Wednesday, May 24, seeking input from parents, teachers and community leaders on ways to strengthen rural education. However, the main concern in rural areas is school closures, something that is sure to be discussed.

READ MORE: Community leaders and parents fight to save rural Thames Valley schools

Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MPP Monte McNaughton raised the issue at Queen’s Park on Thursday.

“The MPP from Northumberland-Quinte West will be in Thedford for a public meeting about the government’s plan to close rural schools,” said McNaughton.

“Curiously, the invitation sent by the issues management team at the Ministry of Education specifies that photography and video recording does not occur once the engagement session begins.”

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McNaughton called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to lift the ban on media, saying families across the province will want to know what is being said during the meeting.

“Will the premier direct the minister of education to lift the media blackout on this so-called public meeting, or will the government continue to close more rural schools under a veil of secrecy?” questioned McNaughton.

Wynne says the ban is in place because some people will not want their remarks to be made public.

“There will always be opportunities for the media to know what the discussion is about, but people need to be able to speak freely,” responded Wynne.

There are up to 300 schools across the province that could be on the Liberal chopping block, including five rural schools in the London area. According to the government, roughly 15 per cent of Ontario students are enrolled in rural schools.

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READ MORE: Hamilton-Wentworth school board considers elementary school closures and mergers

Wednesday’s meeting will take place in Thedford from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., location to be announced.