BLAKE WOLFE The Standard
SCUGOG: An appeal of the Durham District School Board's decision to close Cartwright High School continues to wind its way through the auspices of the provincial government, with the Ministry of Education indicating that a facilitator will be assigned to review the matter further.
The latest development in the appeal process came following a 30-day review period for the province, during which a 42-point appeal from the school community and subsequent response from the DDSB was considered. No indication on when a facilitator would be appointed to the matter has been given by the province.
The information packet sent to the ministry from the community in March outlined numerous aspects of the review the community brought into question, including the alleged inflation of costs related to repairs and upgrades needed to make the school fully accessible, as well as the timing and possible connection between the CHS Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) process and construction of a new wing at Port Perry High School, which several members of the Blackstock community have speculated was to absorb the influx of CHS students. The DDSB response refutes each of the points offered by the community.
In a recent letter, Assistant Deputy Minister Gabriel Sekaly states that the ministry has 'determined that it (the CHS Accommodation Review Committee process) has met the criteria for the appointment of a facilitator to undertake the Administrative Review for the region including Cartwright High School,' and goes on to write that 'once the facilitator is appointed, you will be notified by Ministry staff of the review schedule.'
'Please note that the facilitator will be focused on reviewing the board's accommodation review process and its consistency with the board's accommodation review policy. Also, please be aware that the Ministry has no legislative mandate to overturn a school board decision regarding a school closure.'
John Eccleston, one of the many vocal supporters of CHS during the recent ARC process, said that the school community is "hopeful" following the latest development in the appeal.
"It's our impression that none of the numbers the board used in making their decision stand up to scrutiny," he said, describing the ARC process as a "failure of governance.
"Trustees were taking the lead from staff rather than keeping staff in check. They were acting simply as rubber stamps."
In February, trustees voted 10-1 in favour of a staff recommendation to close the school this June and amalgamate the student body with Port Perry High School in September. Scugog trustee Carolyn Morton was the lone holdout, submitting a motion (later defeated) to defer the decision for one year to allow trustees time to consider other options for the school's future.
DDSB Chair and Uxbridge/Brock trustee Joe Allin said that while the board is awaiting the next step in the appeal process, plans to close the school and transition the student body to Port Perry High School continue.
"We understand this is potentially part of the appeal process and the board will cooperate fully," said Mr. Allin, adding that he anticipates any hearings on the matter will be completed by the end of June. "We continue to make plans to work through the school transition process until such a time there is reason to stop, and we don't anticipate those reasons to come forward."
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