Canada

'SOS Elmdale' enlists high-tech help

Parents of children attending Elmdale Elementary School in Ottawa are bringing in some high-tech heavy hitters to save their school from closure.

Elmdale, is one of nine inner-city schools slated for closure by the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.

Signs are going up in store windows and on telephone poles around the city's west end. Later this week thousands of lawn signs will go up. 'SOS Elmdale' is in high gear.

Elmdale parents say inner-city areas are sharing in the region's rapid growth, and they want new population studies done before schools are lost.

"We know our neighbourhoods are changing and turning over." says parent Joanne Oxley. "We have hundreds of young children here. We've surveyed them. The board's not listening and they need to."

Parents think high-tech companies in central Ottawa will be damaged by school closures.

"They're concerned about their ability to attract and retain employees if Ottawa becomes a less desirable place to live, high-tech and other employers are going to have a hard time convincing people to move here," says Paula Roy of 'SOS Elmdale.'

That's why parents have enlisted dozens of high-tech big hitters to help battle the board, which is expected to finalize the closures next month. The names include:

  • Michael Mansfield, President of Rebel.com
  • Gail Logan, President of the Ottawa Board of Trade
  • Geoff Carter, Director of CDI College of Business and Technology
  • Rima Arisocrat, President and CEO of Willis College of Business and Technology

    If the nine inner-city schools are closed, the board will qualify for provincial funds that can be used to renovate old schools and build new ones. The board staff wants to alleviate a space crunch in Kanata and Nepean, and say they need to close schools inside the Greenbelt to do so.

    But school officials say even with these closures there will be 2,400 available school spaces inside the Greenbelt, which they say leaves plenty of room for growth.

    "The population projections show a decline in school-age population there in future even with increase in overall population," says board planner Michael Carson. "So we will still be able to provide an effective and quality school system within the Greenbelt."

    The board says it's using numbers provided by the region. But recently, the region asked the board not to close any schools until a new projection for population growth has been completed.

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