Toronto

Parents push back over potential closure of nearly-full Catholic elementary school in Vaughan

A proposal to close the school, which is at 97 per cent capacity, makes 'zero sense,' says a local parent.

Proposal to close school at 97% capacity makes 'zero sense,' says parent

Concerned parents are trying to stop the closure of Our Lady of Peace, a Catholic elementary school in Maple, Ont. (James Morrison-Collalto)

Parents of children at a Vaughan, Ont. elementary school say they have "huge concerns" about the school's potential closure separating siblings and leading young students to trek across a busy road.

The closure of Our Lady of Peace, a York Catholic District School Board school in the community of Maple, is the Board's preferred option to address Ministry of Education funding changes aimed at motivating school districts to address excess capacity.

Since the proposal was first announced last September, local parents have questioned why closing the school — which is around 97 per cent full — is the top choice.

Closure makes 'zero sense,' parent says

Nearby schools are emptier, with Blessed Trinity at around 75 per cent capacity and Father John Kelly at around 48 per cent, board data shows.

The potential closure "has made absolutely zero sense," said parent Joe Dematteis at a Sunday protest in front of Our Lady of Peace on Barhill Road.

"There are other options they should be looking at," he added.

'There are other options they should be looking at,' says local parent Joe Dematteis. He said he plans on putting his son in the public board if Our Lady of Peace closes this summer. (James Morrison-Collalto)

Dematteis said parents' main concern is trying to keep the school's English and French Immersion community together.

Right now, the proposal would move the school's English students to nearby Father John Kelly and the French Immersion students to Blessed Trinity, then close the school in June.

There are other options they should be looking at.- Parent Joe Dematteis

Dematteis said some families have children in both tracks. "These are kids that have obviously been together for a long time," he added.

Parents are also concerned about the potential move of children in the English track to Father John Kelly, a school right on Keele Street, a busy "arterial road," Dematteis said.

Most former Our Lady of Peace students would "have to cross the major street" to get to their new school, noted another parent, Frank Bilotta, in an email to CBC Toronto.

More than 700 people have also signed an online petition pushing the board to consider other options.

Our Lady of Peace school will likely close in June and its students sent to nearby Blessed Trinity and Father John Kelly. (York Catholic District School Board)

School closure decisions 'challenging'

Board chair Carol Cotton said the York Catholic District School Board of Trustees is "very cognizant" of parents' concerns.

The province "has set clear expectations for school boards across Ontario to address surplus capacity due to declining enrolment to ensure effective use of Board resources," she said in a statement.

"Public Accommodation Reviews," such as the one happening right now in Maple, are "difficult and emotion-laden processes," she added.

"School closure decisions are among the most challenging ones made by Trustees," Cotton said, adding no decision has been made yet regarding the review happening in Maple.

Community consultations on the potential closure ended in late January. A last report will be made available online on Feb. 24, and a final decision about closing the school is scheduled for Feb. 28.

Beforehand, Dematteis and other parents are planning another peaceful demonstration for Feb. 16.

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