Parents ready to fight school closure plan

Parents of Alexander MacKenzie and Sixth Street students are gearing up to defend their schools at meetings with the Rainy River District School Board this week.
While school sub-committees had recommended closing both Alexander MacKenzie and Sixth Street in favour of an expanded J.W. Walker, not all parents are convinced this plan is in the best interest of their children.
“I’m not thrilled at all,” said Andrea Silander, a parent of two children at Sixth Street School.
“I really like that school. I like that it’s small,” she noted. “All parents know most of the kids, the teachers always look after all the grades.”
A public meeting with school board reps will be held tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Sixth Street School, with a similar one tomorrow night at Alexander MacKenzie, to allow parents like Silander to voice their opinions.
A similar meeting is scheduled at Alberton Central School on Tuesday Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. That school sub-committee did not recommend closure.
Silander said she hopes Sixth Street School could stay open for a couple of years so that her children could finish there. “That doesn’t sound very promising,” she admitted.
“We’re disappointed, of course,” said Guy Stromberg, who would have two children at the school next year. “We’re close to Sixth Street and if it closes down, our kids are going to have to go to Robert Moore.”
Stromberg said there were many reasons why he’d prefer his children to remain at the smaller school. “I like the vicinity and the area the kids have to play. It’s a large area,” he noted.
The loss of large playground, skating rink, and close proximity to day care were disadvantages cited in the sub-committee’s report presented to the school board.
Meanwhile, some parents at Alexander MacKenzie also are worried about the school closure plan. While they admit students might be better served at a larger school, they say other issues need to be addressed.
Gloria Geense, who has one child at Alexander MacKenzie, said she is more concerned with moving students to Robert Moore while Walker is being expanded than having her school close.
“We have heard that they’re going to have a school in a school but really how are you going to put two schools in one school building?” she asked.
“Are they going to put all the kids in the gym to learn as a school. We don’t think that would be healthy,” she added.
Geense and her husband, Tony, feel students shouldn’t be removed from Walker while it is being expanded.
“We’ve seriously considered not sending our kid there,” said Tony Geense. “If they go to Robert Moore, I doubt that our daughter is going.”
In fact, Geense said he expects to see a dash of parents transferring their kids to St. Francis School if the plan goes ahead unchanged.
Fellow parent Wendy Kellar, who has a child at both Alexander MacKenzie and Walker, also is against moving students into Robert Moore during construction period.
“There’s a lot of concern sending the kids to Robert Moore for some parents,” she admitted. “We’re looking at other options—home schooling if it comes down to it.”
Kellar’s other main concern is how traffic around the expanded Walker will be addressed as well as the lack of sidewalks near the school. “With the school opening and the kids walking, the traffic down there is nuts,” she said.
Tony Geense, who lives just around the corner from Walker, agreed traffic coming from increased buses, parents dropping off kids, and high school students is a big concern when it comes to the proposed plan.
“The traffic is unreliable, and reckless,” he said, citing high school students as his chief worry. “One of these days someone is going to get killed because it’s totally reckless abandonment.”
Geense said he’s definitely going to attend the upcoming school closure meetings to find out how the school board plans to address his issues.
But Silander said she doesn’t think parents will be able to say anything to save their school.
“I personally think it really doesn’t matter,” she said. “I think it’s going to happen, I just don’t know when.”