TVDSB: School closing debate draws protest

Free Press staff

A packed gallery of protesters watched Tuesday evening as Thames Valley District school board trustees discussed setting in motion a process that could see the closing of several elementary schools.

One of the schools potentially affected is in southeast London, five in Elgin County.

One of those protesters was Johnny Wilson, who has two children in Springfield public school.

He said even a recent visit from Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP Jeff Yurek had failed to shake any answers loose from the board about the school’s future.

“When the school board won’t give the MPP a briefing, something’s wrong,” said the frustrated Wilson.

Wilson and more than 40 other demonstrators supporting the rural school packed the gallery at Tuesday’s board meeting.

Wilson, who owns Wilson Well Drilling, had brought one of his trucks to the meeting. Sitting in the adjacent parking lot, a 30-foot arm shot into the sky, on which was hung the message, “Save Springfield school.”

He had been hoping to put up a spotlight as well. “I was hoping they could see it through the boardroom,” he said, smiling.

Other protester carried handmade signs with messages like, “Rural schools matter” and “Our school = our community.”

Before the discussion began, vice chair Matt Reid warned the crowd to stay calm. “It’s very important that we maintain decorum,” he said from the chair’s podium.

In the school board’s jargon, the process is called a pupil accommodation review.

“Future enrolment projections suggest that fewer and more central schools could be used to accommodate these students,” the board says on its website by way of explaining the possible changes.

The schools involved in the study would include Fairmont in London, as well as New Sarum, South Dorchester, Sparta, Springfield, and Westminster Central public schools.

A potential three new schools could be built – one has already been green lighted and the board is waiting for funding details.

A group of students from East Elgin Secondary School opened the meeting with three acoustic-guitar numbers, including an unplugged rendition of the 1985 Tears for Fears hit Everybody Wants to Rule the World.