One issue we hope Dombrowsky adds to that is rural school closings. A major platform plank of the Liberals in 2003, the government has had only limited success in keeping smaller rural schools open. In 2009, about 150 schools were closing or were recommended to be closed while about 100 more were undergoing accommodation reviews.Well, here's the thing: Some of this may be boosterism since Dombrowsky is the local MPP for
As recently as last September, Dombrowsky was non-committal on the issue, saying "Our government has recognized that in small communities (schools are) a community hub. We also have to acknowledge that the very purpose of schools is to educate children. The school must be able to provide the best programming. A school needs a critical mass to do that. It's about balancing (those needs.)"
As the minister now responsible for balancing those needs, we hope Dombrowsky uses her experience not only as minister for rural affairs but as a self proclaimed "rural member" to tip that balance away from protecting the bottom line at all costs and toward protecting rural communities that rely so heavily on their schools for more than just educating their children.
Suffice it to say that despite her background, her reputation within the farm community isn't sterling.
Making the assumption that because of her experience as Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs minister she will do any more or any better at 'protecting' rural schools is a big leap of faith. This government has been particularly consistent in insisting it's the district school board's responsibility to decide what school facilities it will operate and where it will operate them. I don't see that changing under Dombrowsky's tenure. In fact, she's a proven communicator in maintaining the government's message.
Will the still-to-be-finalized policy on the sharing of school board facilities have a more rural flavour to it as a result of Dombrowsky? Possibly.
Will she be a friendlier ear to the Community Schools Alliance — one who engages their requests and delivers on them — than her predecessor? Doubtful.
We shouldn't expect Dombrowsky will relieve boards of their responsibility to review, vet and give fulsome consideration to the location, size and condition of the spaces our children are learning in— regardless of whether they're on a rural concession or an urban throughfare.