To all concerned,
Given the current political and economic-motivated changes that are being proposed to the Eastern Ontario School Board, I feel compelled to write this letter outlining my personal experience. I feel this reflects upon the personal/individual elements of the debate that seem to be lost upon many of the trustees (not to mention the economic and demographic impact on the community at large).
I grew up in Ingleside, Ontario and enjoyed all the advantages that are afforded to small-town life. I suppose I took for granted one of those advantages; access to a high school that was within walking distance. I was lucky enough to have attended Rothwell-Osnabruck High School for the full duration of my education pre-undergraduate studies.
I was highly active in competitive sports during every season. This placed a significant demand on my time; attempting to balance scholastic performance and extracurricular activities was very challenging. There was literally a scarce few minutes to spare between arriving home from school, doing homework/studying, and driving to hockey or soccer practice. I remember being fully exhausted by the end of the day.
One may ask the relevance of the above paragraph? I was able to walk to school in less than 10 minutes. The fresh air and exercise often sharpened the mind prior commencing school. I would meet several friends along the way and we had a chance to socialize during our walk. It really was a great experience!
Given my schedule, I cannot imagine having to ride a bus to a Cornwall or other distant rural school for 30-40 minutes, adding 60-80 minutes per day of ‘dead time’ to my already incredibly demanding schedule. I am convinced that this extra travel time would have negatively affected my abilities to balance sports and studies. No doubt this would have been reflected my grades, and subsequent ability to apply for post-secondary positions.
Rothwell-Osnabruck also afforded me a personalized and intimate learning environment, which equated to a ‘hands on’ approach to learning. The teachers and students knew one another very well, and this resulted in an ability for teachers to provide extra care in teaching and mentoring. Furthermore, it also allowed students a level of comfort to approach teachers with any problems that may not have otherwise been possible.
Rothwell-Osnabruck was also highly connected to the community at large. At lunch hour, we frequented local businesses for lunch or snacks. Looking back, I now appreciate how important that extra traffic is to support local small business. I cannot imagine the economic impact closing R/O will have on local businesses (I believe this may have already been calculated). What about growth of the community? Will new families choose Ingleside and surrounding area to relocate to without a high-school?
Furthermore, upon graduation I recall receiving several grants/scholarships from local businesses (Kraft, the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic, just to name a few) to support my post-secondary studies. This support was invaluable and demonstrated the healthy symbiotic relationship between the community and the school. Would I have received these grants in a larger school in a larger community distant to where I actually resided? I highly doubt it.
In all likelihood, I would never have had the support, time and confidence that was fostered at R/O to achieve my full potential and become a doctor. Of this I am quite certain. I owe where I am today, in large part, to the environment R/O afforded me.
It saddens me that future generations of students will not have the benefits of experiencing such a caring, hands-on local high-school. I cannot imagine the poor students nearing the end of their studies having to switch schools at such a crucial time. These students are planning their future and inherently have enough challenges/distractions to deal with. I cannot fathom how switching schools will affect the performance/grades of said students, which is especially relevant considering how competitive post-secondary programs are these days.
My two cents, for what it’s worth. I hope we can place people above politics. I have faith that in Canada we still have our priorities in order.
Dr. Kirk Andrew
Cornwall and Ottawa