SCUGOG: The Durham District School Board (DDSB) trustees have voted in favour of the closure of Epsom Public School in June.
At a board meeting on November 21st, the trustees approved a solution that would see the local school be shuttered in June 2017, and the students be sent to Prince Albert Public School for the 2017-18 school year.
Epsom Public School teaches students from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6. In addition, the approved solution will see Epsom area Grade 7 and Grade 8 students sent to Prince Albert Public School, rather than S.A. Cawker Public School, where they are currently sent. However, Epsom area students who are currently in Grade 7 at S.A. Cawker will remain there for their Grade 8 year.
According to the initial staff report, shown to trustees in early April, Epsom Public School has a total of 38 students enrolled this year.
DDSB chairman Michael Barrett said the board did hear some “passionate defense” from the community to keep the rural school open. He added the decision to consolidate would improve the quality of education for the students.
“The reality is, it is always a difficult decision to close a school. When you are talking about 38 students, there is a concern about the quality of education being provided. When you have multiple grades in a single classroom it is difficult.”
Mr. Barrett continued, saying the decision to close and consolidate came down to a choice between quality of education or quality of care, stating the debate could be made that students were receiving better quality of care in the rural school environment in Epsom.
The initial recommendation to trustees would send the Epsom P.S. students to both Prince Albert P.S. and Greenbank P.S., but the board did not see any appetite from the community to split the students up.
“The community indicated that if Epsom P.S. was to close, their preference was for all Epsom P.S. students to attend Prince Albert P.S,” read the Oct. 17 report.
The board had started looking into the rural school’s future in January 2015. However, the board put that review on hold in June 2015 because of the high school teachers’ strike. Trustees voted to resume the review this year on Monday, April 4th.
Epsom P.S. is the oldest operating school in Durham Region.