Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Peterborites take notice

Peterborough College and Vocational School (PCVS) supporters have had a buoyant few weeks.
As followers of the time line for the school would know, it was recently spoken about on CBC Radio Q on March 29. That was the week the nation learned PCVS students and their community had -- in an initiative at least one supporter took pains to tell me over twitter was NOT related to ongoing save-PCVS advocacy -- won the "Spread the Net" challenge.
Which earned the school a coveted spot on the Rick Mercer Report's season finale last week where he even, mirroring the rant done by the current student council president, ranted about it. Bravo. A coincidentally orchestrated collision of gushing media coverage that while not really about the school closing was really and entirely about the opposition that remains to that school closing. That was impressive.
Unfortunately, and particularly when under the gun or after the decision's been made to close a school, many many many schools are fantastic and the greatest schools ever where people are encouraged to be all they can be and no one is ever bullied and every course that anyone ever wants to take is offered ... and... and... so on. While PCVS is impressive for all these things, its heritage and more, it's not unique in those respects. It's not every school, but it's not the only school.
Call me jaded and skeptical or stupid or whatever. For over three years I've been reading and learning about every school closure in this province that got even an ounce of media coverage and even covered a few myself. The wheel has been reinvented so many times on how communities react and plan on this I've lost count. Just tonight I was monitoring a storyline in St. Catharines / Thorold seemingly headed in exactly the same direction as this Peterborough decision.
'Twas shortly before this supporters learned of facilitator Joan Greene's report, completed after the community petitioned the decision of the Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB trustees made in September. It found two "technical" violations of the KPRDSB's own accommodation review guidelines, but not enough to warrant recommending the board repeat the review.
The community is now banking on the publicity earned by its recent showcases and amassing dollars for a judicial review of the board's decision. While I seriously, seriously doubt it will be successful in overturning the decision (based exclusively on not having learned of a successful judicial-review reversal yet after some extensive research), I plead with anyone interested in this situation to take heed. Temper your expectations.
Be very, very aware of what a judicial review can and cannot accomplish. Search for and read through the many, many posts here in this space regarding Niagara District Secondary School in Niagara-on-the-Lake. They went through the judicial review process after waiting too long and as a result the request was quashed. No sense reviewing what has already proceeded too quickly and substantially along to reverse.
I'm no lawyer, but if the fundraising target is met and the decision is made to proceed, the moment after that application for judicial review is filed it might be prudent to file a series of applications for injunctions. One to stop PCVS from closing until the judicial review is either complete or the application is rejected by the court. Another to pause the work -- renovations, etc. -- being done at the receiving school, Thomas A. Stewart Secondary School (TASSS). The fact this work has continued helps put several nails in the coffin.
I don't fault the board for moving forward. It has to or else no school board anywhere would ever be able to close a school and plan for what happens next. A process that already takes 18 months to two years would never end. Given the province seems to finally be getting serious about ending the perpetual declining-enrolment adjustment grant, this is a scenario, along with other school closures, that will repeat itself. Unless, of course, we all starting having many more babies and find a way to also magically and instantly create a bunch of eight-to-12-year-olds kids.
Speaking of planning for what happens next, PCVS supporters need to be prepared for all outcomes. Life goes on and appropriate attention needs to be paid to ensure students are taken care of next year and the year after and after. Don't short the PCVS students of today by refusing to accept the school will close in June and its students will be accommodated at TASSS in the fall. Then you're only creating the self-sustaining storyline. Suggestions on local media comment boards that save-PCVSers discouraged students from completing course-selection properly for the fall are simply discouraging to read even when I doubt it may have happened.
PCVS may very well be the best school ever. But if a judicial review doesn't keep it that way, then students deserve only the same, very best in their receiving schools.