Residents, parents and school children of all ages from both Paisley and Chesley held a rally outside the Bluewater District School Board office in Chesley Tuesday night.
The large group, many dressed in red to show solidarity and support for their small Paisley community, voiced their growing concerns and frustration over an accommodation review process that could close schools in Paisley and Chesley.
Organizer Alicia White-Gibbons says their goal was to make a visual impact statement to the Board to show them who is affected by the current accommodation review, adding funding is an underlying factor.
“Until we fix the funding problem, we’re going to see accommodation review after accommodation review after accommodation review. It’s not going to end until we fix the actual funding problem; do I think that we can fix that today? No, but I do think that we need to send a strong message that closing all these rural schools is not helping those kids,” says White-Gibbons.
Many students are also feeling the pressure of a possible looming school closure.
“I’m sad, disappointed, frustrated because if we do go to another school then we might not know where everything is,” says Chris Parker, a Grade 3 student at Paisley Central School.
Paisley Central is just one of several schools recommended for closure because of declining enrollment.
For single mother and Paisley resident Sarah Pedersen, closing their school will have a negative impact on many families, especially single parent families.
“Rural kids are often disadvantaged already and when it comes to access to various services, access to sports and extracurricular activities this is only going to further put them at a disadvantage,” says Pedersen.
When asked about the rally happening outside the building, David Mason, School Board Trustee for Saugeen Shores Arran-Elderslie noted, “the (ARC) process really encourages voices to come out and clearly tonight you’ve seen the collective community voice of Paisley.”
The first public meeting in the accommodation review process is set for November 8 at the Chesley District Community School.