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New Sarum, Springfield parents win fight to keep schools open: ‘It’s been a long haul’

Display at TVDSB meeting on Tuesday night for Springfield elementary school . Sawyer Bogdan / 980 CFPL

A fight three years in the making for parents at two rural elementary schools had a happy ending Tuesday night.

An overwhelming majority of Thames Valley School Board trustees have voted in favour of keeping the New Sarum and Springfield elementary schools open.

Two separate votes were held to rescind a previous motion to close the schools. In the vote for New Sarum trustees voted unanimously in favour of keeping the school open.

For Springfield, it was 11 to two to keep the school open, with trustees McKinnon and Polhill opposed.

READ MORE: Parents plead their case to stop the closure of two rural elementary schools

“We are not going to have the heart cut out of our community and we are going to have generations more going to school at our local rural school,” said Johnny Wilson, a parent at Springfield Elementary.

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Parents and community members from both schools erupted in applause when the final votes were cast.

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“It’s been a long haul but we were hopeful they would see where we were coming from and understand the issues through our rural eyes,” said Kate Hurst, a New Sarum parent.

“We have a school [New Sarum] almost full, at 92 per cent. If you are wondering why this motion is enforced, it’s because the public does not support us closing full schools to support a business case to open a new one,” said trustee Jake Skinner.
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The decision to keep the two schools open comes after trustees heard a motion last month to revisit their 2017 decision to close the schools after backlash from the communities of Springfield and New Sarum.

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The schools are two of five that the board voted to close by the spring of 2020 to strengthen a proposal for a school to be built in Belmont.

“I did not think it would weaken the case substantially in applying for a new Belmont school and happy administration agreed with that,” said Skinner.

At the meeting, a quote from Jeff Yurek MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London was read from last week’s meeting, saying, “I truly believe the Thames Valley has a greater chance of success in securing a school for Belmont if we rescind the closures of New Sarum and Springfield then (sic) if we do nothing.”

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The other two schools slated for closure are Westminster Central Elementary and South Dorchester Elementary, both of which had parents and educators advocating for the closures to strengthen the proposal for the new school.

READ MORE: Decision on whether to reverse closure of 2 Elgin County schools delayed until November

Both Westminster and South Dorchester have issues with a lack of resources and poor infrastructure.

Sparta Elementary is the fifth school and closed in June of 2018, before reopening in September as a French immersion school.

Belmont does not currently have an elementary school, but the new school, as well as the new one in St. Thomas, are part of several capital priority projects that are pending a decision for funding from the Ministry of Education

After the votes regarding the schools, board members also voted to make the new Belmont school and renovations to Eagle Heights Public School their top priority in their capital priorities submission to the Ministry.