In a unanimous vote taken March 21st, 2017 at a Special Board Meeting, Trustees with the Algoma District School Board voted to close Bruce Mines, Ontario’s only school.
Arthur Henderson Public School will continue to educate young minds for the foreseeable future, while ADSB makes application for funding to the Ministry of Education in a bid to expand the facilities at Central Algoma Elementary School, located in Desbarats, Ontario.
“Arthur Henderson Public School was placed under ‘Accommodation Review’ status on June 14th, 2016.” Shared Marcy Bell, Superintendent of Education, ADSB. “On November 29th, 2016, it was approved by the Board of Trustees (ADSB) to follow the ‘Modified Accommodation Review Process’.”
“Consistent with the Initial Staff Report, and based on the School Information Profile feedback and public input, it is the Senior Administration recommendation that Arthur Henderson Public School be closed and the Jk-3 school population be relocated to Central Algoma Elementary school. This would be contingent upon the ADSB applying for and receiving Ministry of Education capital funding for an addition to Central Algoma Elementary School.” stated Marcy Bell.
A Resolution was read and approved unanimously by the Trustees to close the Bruce Mines School, contingent upon a successful application for aforementioned Ministry of Education funding.
“I am having a moral dilemma.” shared Trustee B. McEachren. “I see communities as having four pillars – schools being one of them. To take it away is a very difficult decision for me. I intended to vote no before coming here tonight, but I will be voting yes. I have read all of the information papers – it doesn’t make me feel good to vote yes.” McEachren expressed concern for communities, especially in the north. “We’re dying – There are a lot of injustices out there.” he said
“Since amalgamation, enrollment in our Board has decreased from 16,000 to just over 9,000 students. None of us would say this is our preferred state, but this is our reality.” shared Lucia Reece. “Our focus is to deliver the best programmes possible in the best facilities possible.”
“We can now present a case to the Ministry of Education to request funding for additional classrooms at CAES.” said Lucia Reece in an interview with MyAlgoma.ca. “The motion being passed tonight gives us the authority to approach the Ministry with our plan.”
Arthur Henderson Public School will remain open to students JK-3 while ADSB moves through the Ministry of Education application for Capital funding process.
“We recognize that no community wants to lose its school – We are trying to do the best thing for the kids. We have to look long term – into the future. Unfortunately some of our facilities have outlived their life and we believe we can offer a better space to have at least the same or better programming.”
With respect to field trips currently undertaken by students at Arthur Henderson School in and around Bruce Mines, Lucia Reece shared, “Field trips are always designed to be curriculum based as we try to connect kids with authentic experiences – Experiences that can be found in their own backyard. Moving forward, we will hear from our teachers and parents through the transition. We are always open to ideas and suggestions from our school communities.”
Reece acknowledged the work of parents and teachers in the Central Algoma school community. “I want to thank all of them for their hard work over this long and difficult process.”
Concerned parents from Bruce Mines, Melissa Dominey, Aspen Zeppa, Linda Premo and Lee attended the Trustee Vote. Aspen Zeppa spoke with MyAlgoma.ca, and shared her intention to continue fighting to keep the school open.
Zeppa, who moved to Bruce Mines two years ago, with the hopes of raising her children in the rural community she grew up in, was disheartened by the Trustee vote.
Zeppa has not ruled out permanently moving away from Bruce Mines and seeking a rural community with which to raise her children – a rural community where the school is at the centre of that community.
Watch video below to hear Aspen Zeppa’s reflections on the ADSB Trustee’s vote to close Arthur Henderson Public School.