Task Force surveys rural school communities

Posted On Friday November 27, 2020

Thames Valley’s Rural Education Task Force is launching a special survey for those living in rural communities to help identify the unique challenges and opportunities experienced by students, parents, community members and our municipal leaders. 

“We want to listen to ideas and concerns from rural communities and generate fresh perspectives on how our Board can better support rural schools that are so important to their communities,” said TVDSB Chair Arlene Morell, a Middlesex County Trustee who also chairs the Task Force.

Thames Valley’s Rural Education Task Force, composed of Trustees, leaders of rural municipalities and community members, was created in 2019 to develop recommendations for the creation of a Thames Valley Rural Education Strategy.

In recent years, many schools have been closed across rural Ontario as school boards struggle with balancing available provincial funding with maintaining aging schools – at the same time providing students with equitable access to curriculum across a large school district.

Marcus Ryan, a parent who opposed the closure of A.J. Baker Public School by the Board in 2014, is an Oxford County Councillor and Mayor of Zorra Township, and Co-Chair of the Task Force.

“Schools are part of the fabric of rural communities,” said Ryan. “While the province does provide some financial support for rural schools, Ontario’s school funding formula may need to change completely to relieve pressure on Boards to close rural schools.” 

Responding to concerns of rural communities, the Ontario government implemented a moratorium on all school closures in July 2017. At the same time, it established the Rural and Northern Education Fund to provide Boards with additional financial support for rural schools.

The survey will be conducted using Thoughtexchange – an interactive online platform that allows participants to provide their ideas and opinions and rate those of others participants. 

The survey will be open from Monday, November 30 to Monday, December 14 and asks participants the question: “What are the unique challenges and opportunities of our TVDSB rural schools, and how do you think we can enhance the rural school experience?”

The Task Force is asking survey respondents to think about what is important to them regarding rural schools and share their thoughts, views and opinions through the Thoughtexchange survey. The information collected will inform a final report developed by the Task Force expected in the spring of 2021. 

The Thoughtexchange survey can be accessed by navigating to the Rural Education Task Force website at  www.tvdsb.ca/RETF and clicking on the survey link. The survey can be accessed using any personal electronic device – cell phone, iPad, laptop, tablet or computer – with an Internet web browser. 

Community members without Internet are reminded that free access is available outside TVDSB schools and many rural municipal buildings. Those without computers may use devices at municipal libraries or by contacting a local Thames Valley school. 

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