Thunder Bay

Fort Frances area schools may merge into new building

Parents in a rural area near Fort Frances fear their community schools will soon shut down — and some worry the board of education has already decided to amalgamate three schools.

Parents in three neighbouring communities oppose plan to amalgamate three small schools

It will be February before the Rainy River school board decides what to do with Donald Young, Sturgeon Creek and Crossroads Elementary schools. (Getty Images)

Parents in a rural area near Fort Frances fear their community schools will soon shut down — and some worry the board of education has already decided to amalgamate three schools.

Rainy River School Board chair Mike Lewis said it will be February before it decides what to do with Donald Young, Sturgeon Creek and Crossroads Elementary schools.

All three buildings need repairs, and putting up one new and larger school would save money, he said.

Rainy River District School Board chair Mike Lewis. (Supplied)

But that's not the only consideration for board staff.

A new, amalgamated school could present "learning opportunities, [in addition to] bringing people together, bringing resources together,” Lewis said. “They see that as potentially beneficial."

Talk of a new school began in 2011, when the board received a report about Donald Young School that said it fell under the “prohibitive to repair” category, as ranked by the Ministry of Education. The building needs a new roof.

But parent Krista Kellar said she believes board administrators simply want a new school. She was part of a committee reviewing the operations of Crossroads Elementary.

"They're doing everything they can to justify it,” she said.

“And one of the big points that I was absolutely appalled with at the meeting … [was] they've already applied for the funding to go ahead and build this grand new school."

Extra travel time for students

Kellar said Crossroads Elementary school is only 17 years old, and in great shape.

The community has spoken out about the importance of keeping its local school — and the fight for it isn’t over, Kellar said.

"If the approval has not been given by the trustees and the vote has not taken place yet, how are they applying for the funding for this already? That's [like] the girl [who] goes out and buys the wedding dress and they just started dating,” she said.

Kellar noted that many of the children in the area help out on family farms and the extra time it will take to get them to the new school will take its toll.

Her own children would have to wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get to school on time.

"Sleep deprived children can't learn, they can't function,” she said.

Sturgeon Creek school is near Barwick, Donald Young school is in Emo, and Crossroads Elementary is in Devlin.

The new school, if approved, would be located in Emo, the largest of the communities, Lewis said.

Each of the three schools currently have about 120 students apiece.

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