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Honey Harbour key to finding better way for support rural schools

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Honey Harbour is playing a key role in helping the province find a way to better support rural schools.

The Muskoka community was one of 10 in Ontario selected to take part in an open discussion that will help build the Rural Education Strategy through the Ministry of Education. This strategy will be a way for the government to help boards like TLDSB find another solution to closing schools, as the number of students continues to drop.

Assistant to the Education Minister, MPP Granville Anderson, says declining enrolment numbers has been the driving factor in forcing boards to consider closing these schools.

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Anderson was in Honey Harbour on Tuesday night, where he asked residents their thoughts on how student achievement can improve in small communities. He also asked about how education funding could be better used, and what resources are needed.

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Some of the suggestions brought up during the round-table discussion included amalgamating school boards and looking at best practices from other rural school communities. Other residents suggested studying the unintended consequences of closing a rural community school and making sure school boards offer more information during accommodation reviews.

A few residents involved in the discussion said there was a lack of clarity provided by the Trillium Lakelands District School Board during the accommodation review of Honey Harbour Public School, where it was being decided if the school would remain open or not.

One group felt that if all levels of government, including the municipality and the school board, worked closer together the board may never get to the point of having to run an accommodation review on a school like Honey Harbour Public School.

The ministry will be taking all the input from the 10 meetings and the online survey to put together the Rural Education Strategy. The ministry is also asking anyone who couldn’t make Tuesday’s meeting to send in their thoughts. The online survey will be open until June 9th.

Anderson says he’s hopeful this set of recommendations will be ready to be released by the fall.

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