Lorne Avenue Public School (re)gained an ally Thursday (May 22).
Mike Schreiner, leader of the Green Party of Ontario, showed his support for the the “heart of the Old East Village,” slated for closure after the 2014-15 school year, during a campaign stop in London.
He took questions from the 30 or so people who formed up for the town hall-like gathering at the corner of Lorne Ave. and English Street late Thursday afternoon, and signed a copy of a petition being circulated by parent groups across the province trying to save schools in their respective backyards.
Concerned parents want to make school closures an election issue. Like the Greens, they’re calling for a moratorium on school closures until the Ministry of Education’s funding formula and the review process that puts schools on the chopping block is reviewed at the provincial level.
Schreiner’s visit was a welcome boost to the province-wide grassroots movement behind that campaign, which local groups Save Lorne Ave. and Save AJ Baker PS, a rural school north of Thamesford in similar peril, are a part of, according to organizer Daniel West.
“We want to get the topic out there in the mainstream and force the other parties to talk about it,” West, an AJ Baker parent said. “(The school board) is saying on the surface they’ll save money by closing schools but they never show how. If they would explain why they’re closing schools we’d be able to stomach it a little better.”
Schreiner has spoken out in favour of Lorne Ave. before. He said the Greens are supportive of community-based schools in general and are also calling for a stop to school closures until those reviews take place.
“We think that every child should have the opportunity to walk to school and we’re deeply concerned about the number of schools being closed in Ontario,” he said.
He said what he heard from the group in London reinforced what he’s heard around the province but the concern that stood out was the bussing issue again, and the hazards associated with the Quebec Street Bridge.
“It’s pretty hard when you have a mom sitting here with tears in her eyes because she won’t be able to walk her daughter to school next year (but) I want to thank the citizens for speaking out and trying to save their neighbourhood school,” he said. “It’s engaged, committed and passionate citizens like what you have here in OEV that make our communities so wonderful.”