South Dundas school sustainability ‘a challenge’

MORRISBURG – While UCDSB schools in Morrisburg and Iroquois have been spared the chopping block, a final report to trustees suggests the school group in South Dundas will have some long term challenges.

In its original proposal, the board had recommended closing Seaway District High School and Morrisburg Public School and housing all elementary students from both communities at Seaway until an addition could be built at Iroquois Public.

In the final report, staff say 89 per cent of the responses to their survey for the Seaway schools showed no support for the recommendations. But nearly three in ten of those responses did offer alternatives.

“Ultimately, acknowledging the desire from the Seaway community to find an alternative to the closure of Seaway D.H.S. has clarified through this process that more time is required to reach a solution for the Seaway feeder group of schools,” the report stated.

The comment seems to suggest that South Dundas could go through this process all over again when the board goes through another review in five years, as mandated by the Ontario government.

The report added that there was an “almost universal theme” to keep Seaway District High School open and concerns about the economic fallout on Iroquois if it was closed.

The board notes the region as an area of “economic decline,” based on the feedback. There were also concerns about having high school students travelling to Prescott (South Grenville DHS) and dividing students based on the Highway 401 corridor (those north of Highway 401 would go to high school in Winchester).

While one of the suggestions is converting Seaway DHS into a grade K-12 school, the board suggests “it may not fully address the ongoing programming challenges associated with low grades 9-12 enrollments.”

The board said it is also “recognized and appreciated” that residents want to keep a school presence in Iroquois and Morrisburg.

“However, overall sustainability between the two elementary schools will remain a challenge unless a solution can be found for French language instruction that meets the delicate balance between program viability, equity of access and parental choice.”

The trustees meet Wednesday night in Kemptville to review the recommendations from the final report. A final decision won’t be made until March.