RRDSB terminates agreement with the CPA

By Merna Emara
Staff Writer

The Rainy River District School Board (RRDSB) unanimously voted in a special board meeting on Jan. 27, 2022, to not renew the partnership agreement with the Christian Parents’ Association (CPA), over an agreement violation.

The violation involved the CPA’s initiation of a private secondary school program operated by the association within the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program (SCAP) building, a press release issued by the RRDSB states.

SCAP came into existence in 1978, starting with a partnership with the local Mennonite community and later a partnership with the CPA. A subsequent partnership between the school board and SCAP began in the 1980s when both the school board and CPA provided elementary and secondary schooling to students within the SCAP program. Since the SCAP is an annex to both Sturgeon Creek School and the Rainy River High School, it is not recognized by the Ministry of Education as a school on its own.

However, the partnership between the school board and CPA prohibits the association from creating an adjacent program to the one funded and provided by the school board.

Raymond Roy, board chair, said in an interview with the Times that the school board learned of the violation in August 2021, after they had agreed in May 2021 to a request by the CPA Board to extend the SCAP agreement by one year.

“There’s no animosity,” Roy said. “We’ve had a good partnership with the CPA for about 40 years where we’ve provided both elementary and secondary programs at the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program. The CPA has chosen to start a private secondary school in the building, and we respect that choice.”

On the basis of the agreement extension request, a press release states, the RRDSB hired staff for the one-year extension requested by CPA, trusting the commitment communicated by the CPA board.

“The [RRDSB] then saw a sudden and dramatic decline in secondary student enrolment within SCAP,” the press release states. “This significant decrease of enrolment subsequently impacted the RRDSB’s funding for SCAP and the board, as a whole. In addition to coming without warning from CPA, the initiation of a new school program within the building violated the agreement between the CPA and the board.”

The CPA issued a statement following an in-camera meeting last night. The CPA board said the agreement termination announcement was unexpected. They said the CPA board was under the understanding that negotiation with the RRDSB would continue until the current agreement was signed.

The CPA board explained in the statement that they have expressed their desire to the school board to claim another classroom in the CPA building to offer online learning for secondary students who were choosing that line of study this year. The CPA board said a verbal agreement was reached, but it was never reflected in the written contract.

The dramatic decline in secondary student enrolment within SCAP was also a surprise to the CPA board, they said in the statement.

“Despite the sudden end to the partnership, the CPA Board has appreciated the good working relationship it has experienced with the RRDSB and is thankful for their support through the years,” the CPA board said in the statement,” the statement said.

Roy said that it had been the board’s hope that this partnership would continue. However, he said, this was not to be and that they followed the requirement of having to notify the CPA with the agreement termination.

“This decision was not made lightly,” Roy explained in the press release. “These events, unfortunately, have given the board grave concern about further risk, the subsequent viability of the Sturgeon Creek Alternative Program, and the strength of our partnership going forward. This is why the partnership will not be renewed and must come to an end.”

To avoid the interruption of the students’ learning process, Roy said the agreement will remain in effect until June 22, 2022. After that, the board said they invite parents to enrol their children at a RRDSB school.

“There are still approximately 60 elementary students in the building,” Roy said. “And we’re absolutely committed to making sure that they have a good schooling experience up until the end of June.”