The cards are on the table for the future of Kintore’s A.J. Baker Public School.
All that’s left is for Thames Valley District School Board trustees to vote on whether to go through with closing the school or opt instead to keep it open.
Parents, teachers, students, and community members made their pitch to the trustees about why the school should stay, drawing on both emotional and financial reasons.
“It’s genuinely centered in a community,” says Marcus Ryan, a parent at A.J. Baker. “It’s not an anonymous school plunked down by an anonymous school board; it’s a product of the community that’s there, and honest to god, there’s a sense of ownership in the community of the children that go there and of the school itself.”
— Douglas Peck (@RevDouglasPeck) September 24, 2014
Parents pointed out that it would cost $1.6 million to bring A.J. Baker up to provincial standard, compared to an estimated $2.6 million it would close to close the school.
The small rural school has been on the advisory review committee for the past two years, and if it were to be closed, students would be bused to either Zorra Highland Park Public School or Thamesford Public School, depending on where they live. The rural area covering A.J. Baker’s school zone amounts to roughly two-thirds the size of London, and parents and graduates argue that bus travel times for students would stretch to as long as 40-50 minutes if forced to commute to a neighbouring rural school. Many parents threaten that they would transfer their children to the nearby Avon-Maitland District School Board instead.
“When you close a rural school, you remove a vital organ,” says George Quinn, a member of four generations of Kintore elementary school graduates.
Another parent, Brad Cooper, drew from Christmas Vacation‘s tight-fisted boss Frank Shirley in making his pitch to trustees: “Sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn’t mean much if to get it, you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It’s people that make the difference.”