New Canadians hope to save local school from closure

By Meghan Potkins

Grade 9 Rideau High School student Alec Crete hopes he won’t have to change schools next September.

“I don’t want to have to start all over again. You know when you come to a new school and everything… I don’t want to do that at another school,” he said.

Parents and students whose schools are being considered for closure in the Ottawa-Carleton school district will have a second chance to express their concerns Wednesday night following a public meeting on Monday.

The school closure recommendations were raised in a school board review last month as a cost-cutting measure, and target schools with lower enrolment levels.

Rideau High School is on the list for possible closures along with two Merivale-area elementary schools.

According to Charlene Hunter, a communications officer with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, enrollment at Rideau High School has been dropping off in recent years.

“When you have a school with that small of a population, you really reduce the opportunities for course selection so what you are really able to offer is the course programs that are mandatory,” Hunter said.

But students and staff at the Rideau High School say it serves a uniquely diverse community in a neighbourhood dominated by lower-income families.

According to Hunter, many of the delegates at Monday’s meeting were there on behalf of people whose first language is not English.

The school board staff recommendations were translated into five languages, including Dari, Farsi, Arabic, Urdu and Somali, in order to ensure the diverse community served by Rideau High School could understand the report.

“There were students who gave presentations… and for three of them their first language was not English.”

Ahmad Assadi, also in grade 9, is new to Canada. He said he hopes changing schools won’t mean he’ll lose out on the ESL classes he now takes at Rideau High School. “I might not have the same classes [or] the same teachers,” said Assadi.

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