Munster Hamlet school on the chopping block
Munster Elementary School was designed to hold over 200 students.
Currently, there are less than 60.
That’s why staffers at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board are recommending the rural west Ottawa school should be closed next September.
“We have recommended that those students who are currently at Munster be re-directed next year,” says Michael Carson, OCDSB Superintendent of Facilities.
That means busing them to schools in nearby Stittsville or Richmond – a bus ride of up to 40 minutes, according to concerned parent Laura Rupert.
Rupert says the school board is ignoring why enrolment has dropped. She says many parents had issues with former staff. And she says the school would be more attractive if it offered Early French Immersion. “You can't just make a big decision like this with closing a perfectly great school with an over-sized gym, ample yard space, without knowing all the facts,” she says.
But the fate of the school could be a sign of a bigger trend. In November of 2014 it was revealed the province has reduced its education budget by up to $500 million. At the time critics feared it would lead to school closures, particularly in rural areas.
Premier Kathleen Wynne revisited the issue at an event in Ottawa today. “Boards have to make those decisions,” said Wynne. “The buildings that have been standing for many years are not necessarily in the areas where children are being born and needing to go to school.”
Michael Carson says there are no current plans to close other schools in Ottawa, but the board is constantly monitoring enrolment. “There are some of them that are smaller than we would like to see. But before we make any decisions about possible closures or boundary changes we need to look at it in an over-all context,” he said.
That is small comfort for Laura Rupert. She and other parents in Munster are hoping to convince the board to reject the recommendation and save the school she calls the heart of her small community. “I'm doing this for my son. And I'm doing this for the children of Munster."
At a board meeting on Tuesday night, parents packed into the OCDSB board room. Trustees heard concerns from both sides and engaged in discussion. The meeting lasted close to four hours. An official decision on the closing won't be held until a vote at the February 17th board meeting.