The challenges of getting back to school in rural Ontario (2017)

By Pat Jilesen, Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Heading back to school is an exciting time for Ontario students, but it will be bittersweet for some rural Ontario communities coping with the threat of school closures.

School closures are a harsh reality across Ontario, especially in small and rural communities. While the government imposed a temporary halt on any further closures in June, students and families living in communities where schools are threatened to close are left to wonder if this will be the last year for their local school. This weighs heavily on communities, their residents and children. Closing local schools and bussing students to schools in larger centres means extremely long bus rides, causing students to miss out on after school and extra-curricular activities, and after school job opportunities. 

Students at Paisley Central School in Paisley, ON know this all too well. Scheduled to close, the rural school was granted a one-year reprieve. Students will return to the school this fall, but the threat and potential for closure is real and weighs heavily on the students, staff and surrounding community.

Schools provide more than a place for learning – they are home to community social events, local sports, and service and community groups. Rural schools are central to the health and wellbeing of our communities, and they are a vital social infrastructure that also supports employment opportunities and rural economic development.

The Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) understands the important connection schools have to maintaining healthy communities and has been advocating to keep Ontario’s rural schools open. OFA will continue to address this issue in the upcoming fall legislature, calling on the government for additional analysis of the social and economic impact of closing rural schools.

Students in rural areas are also challenged with connectivity. Access to the internet has become essential to today’s education. Research, independent learning, distance education, project submission and after school projects are often conducted outside of school and rely on broadband. But reliable and affordable broadband isn’t a reality in many rural communities, putting students, businesses and farms at a disadvantage. OFA has also been advocating for programs and government support to expand reliable and affordable broadband to Ontario’s rural and remote communities. Connectivity is closely tied to economic growth.

Today’s students and youth are the future for these vibrant communities. What rural Ontario students need today are local, secure schools in their community and reliable, affordable broadband. These are just a few of the basic tools our province can provide to the next generation and OFA is behind this call to support the students in our rural communities all the way.

For more information, contact:

Pat Jileson
Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Neil Currie
General Manager
Ontario Federation of Agriculture


Linda says on September 2, 2017 at 9:47 AM

Why do our rural children always have to be the ones to be bussed into the urban centres? How about the urban children being bussed to the rural schools to keep them viable. So many advantages...keeping schools open...breathing cleaner air...less traffic...keeping communities vibrant...boon to economic development...

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