September 13, 2017 7:09 pm

Yarker community hits another road block in their fight to keep their rural school open

Community members are frustrated the Ministry of Education dismissed their request to review the decision making process into closing Yarker Family School.

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Rural community members in and around Yarker are frustrated that the Ministry of Education earlier this month dismissed their request to review the process that led to the decision to close Yarker Family School and send students to Odessa.

Robin Hutcheon is the chair of the group Rural Schools Matter and says she feels as though the community wasn’t listened to.

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“It seems as though most of the board members didn’t bother to pay attention to what the community was saying. And to have the ministry just say okay, we believe what the school board says without any investigation doesn’t make you feel like they’re listening to the people.”

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Residents first learned of the potential closure in the fall of 2016. In June, trustees voted to close the JK to grade 3 elementary school due to low enrolment and operational costs.

“With approximately 26 students enrolled in that school the board of trustees wanted to be able to provide excellent learning opportunities for them and balance their finances and the funding that we receive,” said Debra Rantz, director of Education with the Limestone District School Board.

This summer, members of the community asked the Ministry of Education to conduct an administrative review of the decision citing improper process.

This month the Ministry denied the request finding the Limestone District School Board did, in fact, follow proper procedure.

“In terms of engagement and the processes that we needed to follow The Limestone District School Board went above and beyond,” Rantz said.

READ MORE: Ontario pauses school closure reviews, but 124 schools still on chopping block

However, Hutcheon disagrees.

“All it would have taken was a little more talking just strictly to the community and at least they would have felt listened to,” Hutcheon said. “Even in the end if the closure decision still came down if they had spoken with the community and really tried to collaborate I think the result could have been a lot different.”

Despite the dismissal, Hutcheon says the community isn’t giving up hope. The school isn’t slated to close until 2018 so until then, she wants to continue to lobby school board members in hopes they change their minds about the closure.

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