Laurie Russell is the chair of the Exeter Public School parent council.
As told to Casey Lessard
Emotions are running rampant. No one wants their school closed. The reality is one or two schools have to close. It’s just the reality. To come up with a decision that everyone agrees with is not an easy process. In Hensall and Zurich, if one or both close, it will have a huge impact. Why would new families come into that community if there isn’t a school available to them? They won’t move there. I understand everyone’s putting proposals forward to make it fair, to make everyone involved. At first, Exeter and Stephen Central were not on the chopping block, even though they would be involved. The other night in Exeter, they brought up the option again that the Hensall community came up with of closing Exeter Public School and putting a K-8 school in the high school. The board came back and said that’s really not an option for funds. They said the ministry wouldn’t consider offering the money without closing three schools.
Closing Exeter is an option. Exeter Public School is not greatly represented at these meetings. The Exeter PS community seems to feel they are not affected. Exeter PS may not close, but it will be affected. I have put a plea out to the parents and guardians of the children and explained the options and telling them that we will be affected. Unfortunately we only had a handful out to the meeting the other night, one other representative at the Usborne meeting, and no one at the Zurich meeting. I understand everyone’s concern about the age of Exeter PS. Personally, I think it’s in great shape, but I’m obviously biased. The age is one of the main arguments, but everything has been kept up to date. Everyone has cosmetic issues with their school. I don’t think it’s a hazard to anyone’s health to send their children there.
I don’t think there is enough time (given to the committee to make recommendations), but it has worked in other areas. It just happened in North Huron with the same amount of time and number of schools. We’ve had some unofficial meetings outside of the official ARC meetings. I think we should have more time, but… I don’t think it’s predetermined. (The board) have their ideas, but truthfully, they are open to what we recommend. We do have a voice and they will consider what we come up with.
There is not a solution that everyone will be happy with. In the long run, people may come to think this was the best decision, but right now, there is not a solution where everyone will be happy. Unless this all went away and we all kept our schools.