An Open Letter to KPRDSB Trustees, on the Potential Closing of PCVS

Dear Board Trustees,

As a professional who worked for a decade in the downtown core, I am writing to express my concern over the potential closure of PCVS.

The school and the city share a long held symbiotic relationship. Each benefit from the presence of the other, and each benefit from the presence of students in the downtown core.

Much of a downtown cores vibrancy and life comes from the energy, passion, and, yes, disposable income of youth. The city greatly benefits from having young artists, politically charged student voices, volunteers, and shoppers present. And students interested in arts, politics, non-profit service, and business gain experience, forge relationships, and become part of the “scene” at an earlier age by experiencing life in the vibrant core of an urban centre. It would be a tragedy to jeopardize the relationship shared by students and downtown arts groups, non-profit organizations, municipal offices, and local businesses.

Closing PCVS would prevent many, many students from making essential life and career altering contacts. It would close many avenues currently accessible to them.

I cannot count the number of youth that volunteered to work with me during my time at Peterborough Green-Up, located right downtown. A conservative estimate would place 90% of those youth as PCVS students. And I am hardly alone in experiencing this. PCVS has provided volunteers and co-op students for every non-profit organization that I have ever worked with — and I’ve sat on the Board of Directors of quite a few NGO’s. They were also a major part of the work that I did with municipal advisory committees, such as Arts, Culture and Heritage and Community Funding.

These kids, going to school in the core, made the most of their opportunities. They gained valuable experience and helped sustain virtually every sector present in Peterborough.

There are, of course, economic ramifications that come with the closing of PCVS. While some may argue that this amounts to nothing but a few lunches, I would say that, even if it were only lunch money being spent, several hundred regular diners make for a large economic stimulus to keeping youth downtown. But business owners know that it is hardly just lunch money being lost. Students shop at local boutiques. They spend money at convenience stores, drug stores, even grocery stores. They are the ones keeping businesses such as skateboard shops, second hand boutiques, music stores and cafes in existence.

They are the users of our libraries, drop in centres, and non-profit resource centres.

This is something to consider when making your decision. After all, if you want what is best for our students, you must look at the health of the community that houses these students. Urban planners recognize that a healthy and vibrant downtown boosts the economic health and quality of life of entire cities. Promoting a weakened city core only hurts the community you are trying to serve — the one that is responsible for the future of our students. In short, making Peterborough a less economically sustainable city is a huge mistake. And future students will bear witness to a community less capable of promoting their social and educational growth.

The potential decision to close PCVS also goes against decisions made by both the Provincial and Municipal governments. The Ontario “Places to Grow” act and document both promote downtown revitalization. This is a mandate of the Province created to help maintain healthy communities. As agents of the Provincial Ministry of Education, I believe that you should be promoting this Provincial policy guideline.

At the same time, the City of Peterborough Master Plan is also very direct in its aim to keep businesses and institutions in the downtown core. The closure of PCVS would represent a conscious objection to the direction that the City of Peterborough has outlined for sustainable growth. A KPRDSB decision to override municipal policy is one makes me doubt Board commitment to our community — the very community that feeds your institutions. It sends a message that the Board is acting in a self-directed and self-serving manner that is contrary to the needs of its constituents and users. It shows a narrow minded approach to administration.

I am not going to approach you on a nostalgic or sentimental level. There are countless people who are currently lined up to do just that.

I am, however, going to remind you that there is a lot more to school closures than short-term economic accountability. In order to foster the best opportunities for our students, we have to foster the communities that house them. And by harming the downtown core of our community, we weaken the community as a whole.

On the other hand, by promoting economic and social sustainability, we promote the healthy growth of our city — the type of growth that attracts new families to the Peterborough area and, in the long run, leads to economic gain for both the community and the School Board — as well as a better environment for our students to learn and grow.

I do hope that the Board Trustees consider these points before making a final decision.

Kind regards,

Donald Fraser

small print writing and communications consulting

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