fftvplos rvozxqb · 2021-02-22

Community rallies to save high school

The turnout may have been lower than expected, but the enthusiasm to continue the fight to keep Penetanguishene Secondary School open was as big as ever at a rally last week.

More than 60 people came out to the Brian Orser Hall on May 7 for a "Save PSS" rally lead by Mayor Anita Dubeau and PSS English teacher Chris Burns.

The rally was to discuss what the community can do to stop the Simcoe County District School Board from adopting a resolution put forth April 22 by trustees Debra Edwards and Jodi Lloyd that would see the high school close.

Burns said although attendance wasn’t as high as we would have liked, the meeting served to galvanize the community.

"We didn’t have a great number of people here, but we had activists in the community who will take the message out to other members of the community, and that’s exactly what we wanted," he said.

Michelle Locke, co-chair of the parent committee for PSS and committee chair for the parent involvement committee for the entire school board, said the meeting was successful in bringing residents together for one cause.

"Very rarely do you see such an age group…. We have little kids and grandparents together, all to show how important (PSS) is to their community," she said.

One of the ideas tossed around at the rally was to fill as many buses as possible and drive to Midhurst for Thursday’s board meeting.

"We’re hoping that as many students at our school and as many community members as possible will … get on board those buses," Burns said. "A high school is one of those things that defines a community."

Burns said it’s not only important for graduates of the school to show up, but also for community members – "even those who don’t have anything to do with PSS" – to talk about the potential negative impact of closing the school.

"As the tax role decreases because of the lack of a high school … it affects everyone," he said. "This has huge ramifications, not only for present students, but also for the community at large."

Grade 11 student Jade Huguenin said the meeting gave the community a chance to distinguish between fact and fiction in relation to what is going to happen to PSS.

In addition to providing a great learning environment, PSS offers a variety of invaluable extracurricular activities, she said.

"I am involved in everything I can possibly fit in my schedule at school, (and) I am so involved because I like the atmosphere at PSS," said the student council vice-president. "I like the fact that I can become friends with people in all the grades…. When I get to a bigger school, all the opportunities, all the relationships that you can build in a smaller school, diminishes."

Locke said despite the outcry from the community, she is not confident heading into Thursday’s meeting.

"There are too many unpredictable things that happen," she said, noting a number of trustees have yet to set foot in any of the accommodation review committee meetings or any of the schools facing closure.

"I have a hard time understanding how they can make an educated decision without actually being a part of the process."

Locke said she offered to pay for a bus to the meeting to show her support and pride for the community.

"I am just so proud of this town because they really are pulling together," she said. "Just in the last five years, I’ve noticed a huge push for community involvement…. I just want to keep that going."

Buses are scheduled to leave the back parking lot at PSS at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. For more information, contact Debbie Connolly at 549-6621 or .