The St. Clement Catholic School community breathed a sigh of relief on Monday as trustees from the Waterloo Region Catholic School Board decided not to pursue closing the school.
The trustees were granted permission from Ontario Ministry of Education to consider the option as part of its accommodation review committee (ARC), which seeks to cut costs in the system. The site may require $4 million in repairs over the next five years, with trustees pondering suggestions that closing the school and busing students to Wellesley Public School may be more efficient.
But parents made their concerns known at a public meeting in St. Agatha, and were joined by Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris, who wrote an open letter to the trustees asking them to reconsider.
“I was disappointed in the education minister to grant the potential closing of St. Clement School,” said Harris in an interview. “This small, rural town would really be uprooted and potentially bused to other communities away from their families. It has been an important and integral part of the community, not only beside the church.”
The school, which serves approximately 200 students, operates at 70 per cent capacity – a larger-than-usual percentage for closure consideration, despite declining enrolment. Moreover, parents at Monday’s meeting claimed Wellesley PS would be a poor fit for students: St. Clements has a high Catholic population within the largely Protestant township.
“There are kids walking there, third and fourth-generation students going there – this school is an important part of the fabric of St. Clements,” said Harris. “That’s why I was happy to stand with parents.”
Janek Jagiellowicz, trustee for Woolwich, Wellesley, Wilmot, said that closing the school would be unfair to the community. “The main [decision] was – we’ve set the parameters for the ARC before this started. It’s unfair to all the parents to change the parameters halfway through.
“We had the ability before the ARC started to discuss all the different parameters, and if we wanted to put St. Clements in at that time, we should have put it in at that time.”
The only Waterloo Region Catholic school still facing closure is St. Agatha Catholic School in Wilmot Township, which faces $2 million in repairs to a facility operating at 60 per cent capacity.