'My kids are really disappointed': 8 schools to shut down in Sudbury area

The majority of Rainbow District School Board trustees have agreed to close eight English public schools in Sudbury, Ont., over the next two years in an effort to save $2.2 million dollars annually.

Board requesting provincial government funding to build 2 new schools, renovate 4 others

Most Rainbow District School Board trustees voted in favour of school closures on Tuesday evening at a special meeting. (Olivia Stefanovich/CBC)

The majority of Rainbow District School Board trustees have agreed to close eight English public schools in Sudbury, Ont., over the next two years in an effort to save $2.2 million dollars annually.

Trustees made the decision on Tuesday evening after spending five months holding consultation meetings and receiving public feedback.

"I'm really disappointed," said parent Colleen Burns, who has a daughter in Grade 4 and son in Grade 2 at Lansdowne Public School, which is set to shut down.

"There are kids that come to Lansdowne with no winter gear, and the staff know them and they actually will give them what they need and send it home with them, and I just think a bigger school won't be able to do that. You lose that personal connection."

'Really disappointed' 

Lansdowne is set to close, along with Pinecrest, Webbwood, Chelmsford, Carl A. Nesbitt, Ernie Checkeris, Westmount Avenue and Cyril Varney Public Schools. 

"My kids are really disappointed that the school won't reach 100," Burns said.

"But I think that's Sudbury's legacy. We tear down our history. It's just really sad."

Dawn Graham, who is chair of the Confederation Secondary School council, is also concerned. While her children are not losing their school, they will have to share the building with Grade 7 and 8 students from Pinecrest Public School starting next September. 

Parent fears students being 'warehoused'

"I strongly supported deferring this action for one year so that proper facilities — both gymnasium, classroom and bathroom — could all be addressed so that the incoming students do not feel that they are being warehoused at the back of the school," Graham said.

"Access to public bathrooms is a public health issue and will need to be addressed."

The school board is hoping Ontario's Ministry of Education will pay for renovations to Churchill Public School, Confederation, Lasalle and Chelmsford Secondary Schools.

It is also requesting funding to build a new Queen Elizabeth II Public School from junior kindergarten to Grade 6, and a new French immersion junior kindergarten to Grade 6 school in New Sudbury.

Board 'committed to ensuring a smooth transition for students'

So far, the ministry has not made any commitments to the board.

"I think the money will be forthcoming because it can very legitimately support the initiative of consolidation," Graham said.

Board chair Doreen Dewar thanked parents for their input before adjourning Tuesday's meeting.

"People spoke about their schools with passion and pride, which was very rewarding to us."

"In the months ahead, we are committed to ensuring a smooth transition for students as we move towards implementation."

'Hope that people won't be disenchanted'

But Burns wonders how the board's relationship with parents will be affected by the way trustees voted. 

"I am mostly sad for the people who came and spoke out ... Some of them for their very first time," she said.

"To me, the school board not listening to those parents or those voices, it really shows a lack of faith in the people in this community. You hope that people won't be disenchanted by the process not working."

Larry Killens is the only trustee who voted against the school closures.

Trustee 'not satisfied'

Killens told CBC he still has questions about the board's plans to build a soccer dome.

In an email released through a Freedom of Information request to a parent, the board's education director Norm Blaseg wrote there could be up to $1 million available for such a facility.

"I don't feel good about closing schools while these questions are unanswered," Killens said. 

"That's why I voted no. Inside I'm not satisfied that we have tried our best."

The board has not committed any money to building a soccer bubble, according to Blaseg.

Breakdown of school closures

1. Central Sudbury

  • Close Lansdowne Public School
  • Move Grade 7 and 8 Lansdowne students to Sudbury Secondary School by Sept. 1, 2018
  • Build a new junior kindergarten to Grade 6 school on the Queen Elizabeth II Public School property to accommodate Lansdowne and Queen Elizabeth II students by Sept. 1, 2019 subject to funding from Ontario's Ministry of Education​

2. Espanola

  • Close Webbwood Public School
  • Move Webbwood students to S. Geiger Public School by Sept. 1, 2017

3. New Sudbury

  • Close Carl A. Nesbitt, Ernie Checkeris, Westmount Avenue, and Cyril Varney Public Schools
  • Build a new French immersion junior kindergarten to Grade 6 school on an existing school site in New Sudbury to accommodate students from Carl A. Nesbitt, Ernie Checkeris and Westmount Avenue by Sept. 1, 2019 subject to funding from Ontario's Ministry of Education
  • Revitalize Lasalle Secondary School to accommodate Grade 7 and 8 students from Churchill and French immersion students from Carl A. Nesbitt for Sept. 1, 2018 subject to funding from Ontario's Ministry of Education
  • Revitalize Churchill Public School to accommodate junior kindergarten to Grade 6 students from Churchill and Cyril Varney by Sept. 1, 2019 subject to funding from Ontario's Ministry of Education

4. Valley east 

  • Close Pinecrest Public School
  • Move Pinecrest Grade 7 and 8 students to Confederation Secondary School by Sept. 1, 2017
  • Move Pinecrest Grade 6 students to Redwood Acres Public School by Sept. 1, 2017

5. Valley north

  • Close Chelmsford Public School by Sept. 1, 2018
  • Retrofit Chelmsford Valley District Composite School to accommodate junior kindergarten to Grade 12 students subject to funding from Ontario's Ministry of Education. Junior kindergarten to Grade 8 would be offered for English and French immersion, and Grade 9 to 12 would be offered to English students only. 
  • Discontinue French immersion at Levack Public School by Sept. 1, 2018. Move program to revitalized Chelmsford Valley District Composite School
  • Transfer Grade 7 and 8 students from Larchwood Public School to Chelmsford Valley District Composite School by Sept. 1, 2018
  • Accommodate Grade 9 to 12 French immersion students from Chelmsford Valley District Composite School at Sudbury Secondary School by Sept. 1, 2017

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.