Peterborough community rallies to save a wonderful school
An energetic and inspiring campaign has come together under the banner of Peterborough Needs PCVS in an effort to save Peterborough’s oldest and only remaining downtown school.
In September 2011, the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board voted 7-4 to close Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School, effective the end of the current school year.
PCVS has attracted 90 per cent full enrolment despite a declining student population in the Peterborough area. The Board plans to disperse the population of about 750 students to a large suburban school, Thomas A Stewart, which has sharply declining enrolment.
The second oldest high school in the province, PCVS is famous for the beauty of the building and for its renowned Integrated Arts Program. It sits in the middle of a vibrant downtown arts community that provides a unique experience for all students. It is a welcoming home for New Canadians and students from varied backgrounds and income levels.
PCVS has a well known reputation in the city as a safe school for bullied and gay and lesbian youth.
Rick Mercer has commented on the highly unusual devotion of PCVS students, who have organized a Queen’s Park rally, t-shirt sales, and numerous events: “The fact that these kids are trying to save the school obviously speaks volumes about how important the school is.”
Actor and entertainer Sean Cullen, a PCVS graduate, said: “There are so many alternatives to closing a viable, fully enrolled, historically important high school that it boggles the imagination. Any student who has attended PCVS can tell you that it’s a special place.”
A YouTube musical performance in a PCVS stairwell by two alumni, Kate Macdonald and Janelle Blanchard, has attracted tremendous attention in Canada and further afield for their musicality and their cause.
PCVS alumnus and Juno award winner Serena Ryder said: “The building alone was enough to make me want to write music.”
PCVS makes an essential contribution to a vibrant and healthy downtown community. Peterborough City Council supported a review of the process that led to the Board vote. Mayor Daryl Bennett cited the importance of PCVS in attracting residential growth in the downtown, in keeping with City policy and the provincial Places to Grow legislation.
Police Chief Murray Rodd praised the contribution of PCVS to safe streets: “From a first principle safe community design perspective, it is most desirable to retain the presence of this last remaining school in our downtown.”
Long-time Peterborough federal and provincial member of parliament Peter Adams said: “Closing PCVS would leave a hole in the heart of our community.”
PCVS supporters have strongly questioned the school board’s decision. It would be an unheard of decision to close a school at 90 per cent enrolment.
Further, based on the Board’s own enrolment projections, closing PCVS would not solve enrolment shortfalls elsewhere in the system. There would be a 1,000 empty student spaces remaining in the city’s public high schools, leading to further school closings in the near future.
Peterborough Needs PCVS is very concerned about the flawed process leading to the Board vote. A Board-appointed Accommodation Review Committee was shut down last Spring before it had an opportunity to weigh public input or examine creative solutions to the problem of falling enrolment. In September, the Board administration changed its recommendation on the school to close only three days before the vote took place. The two Peterborough trustees supported PCVS, but were out-voted by trustees from outside the community.
To date, urgent requests to the Board to reverse its decision – or at very least delay the hasty closing for one year – have been rejected.
However, on 19 December, the Ministry of Education appointed a facilitator to review the Board’s process leading to the PCVS vote.
“Everybody knows it was a very poor process. Even Board officials have admitted it,” said Jay Amer of Peterborough Needs PCVS. “This is our opportunity to highlight the defects for the facilitator.”
For more information about PCVS and the effort to save this wonderful school, visit www.PeterboroughNeedsPCVS.com.