Merging school boards draws differing opinions from Windsorites

Windsor parents are largely in favour of a big part of the Green Party election platform.

Green Party platform includes merging the school boards to cut costs

Windsor parents are largely in favour of a big part of the Green Party platform heading into the upcoming election.

While unveiling his party's platform Tuesday, the province's Green Party Leader Mike Schreiner suggested Ontario should merge the Catholic and Public school boards into one system as a cost-saving measure, one that would save up to $1.5 billion each year.

That's from doubled building space, administration and busing. With these cuts, the boards would be able to invest more money into education.

Just this week in Windsor-Essex, the Catholic School Board announced the closure of four schools in the region as a way to cut costs.

Dozens of parents whose children attend St. Gregory School in Tecumseh have rallied for the last year, in attempts to reverse the decision.

William Altenhof is one of those parents. He told CBC News he's overwhelmingly in support of the two school boards merging.

"The Catholic Board has taken a vision of merging schools to save costs. Why not extend that to boards to save costs?" he said.

"Why disrupt a system that's been working so well for so long," said Barb Holland, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Catholic School Board.

Mike Rohrer's children also attend St. Gregory. He led the parents' campaign to stop the school's closure.

He said there are more administrators today than a decade ago, yet there are fewer students in the system as a whole.

"When we are closing schools, upsetting communities in the name of saving money ... shrinking the size of bureaucracy should be the first thing they look at, not the last," said Rohrer.

"Cost-saving in terms of one system is a fallacy, at best. You're always going to need principals and support staff," said Holland. "There are no savings because we are funded per student."

Chad Durocher, running for the Green Party in Windsor West, said the plan is a "great idea."

"When they talk about firing teachers, making classrooms larger, it's all because of cost," said Durocher.  "When you have a duplicate system, (merging the boards) would be a good way to solve solvency problems."

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