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

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

  1. Tricia Clarkson says:

    Re: Closure of PCVS

    PLEASE…school board trustees…postpone this most crucial decision to close PCVS until all the facts are in! All emotion aside, it is one of the most important decisions ever to be made for this community, as PCVS is one of the most outstanding historical and cultural educational landmarks in Ontario.

    The decision to close PCVS should be delayed for the following reasons:

    1. Now that we know TASSS still has asbestos, why would we want to move students there where it could impact their health?
    2. How much will the renovations cost to remove the asbestos from TASSS to make it less hazardous for students?
    3. How much would the renovations cost at PCVS if it were to be used for alternative education programs and other services?.
    4. If 10 M is needed to renovate TASSS for board offices, surely there would also be similar costs to get rid of the asbestos for students, accommodate extra students and transport them from other areas. These expenses may end up costing 10M as well.

    The inspirational design of PCVS (with the wide-open windows looking out onto the community), its location and atmosphere is conducive to creative thinking, scientific advancement, professional pursuits, and artistic and musical endeavours. Alternately, in speaking with teachers from TASSS, the building was poorly designed, chopped up, has a stifling atmosphere and is not conducive to effective communication amongst teachers, staff, and students because of the fragmented layout and design of the building. Framing TASSS as “the more-modern” facility is a misnomer therefore, as it doesn’t even have as many upgrades as PCVS. TASSS is more conducive to trades programs and technical workshops that would make a good foundation for Fleming College students rather than trying to cram a diversity of students in there from all walks of life and different parts of the city.

    Hopefully the only decision that will be made this tonight will be to postpone the decision until further new information is provided including the four questions as stated above. I hope the outcome will be to keep PCVS open for students, as it is one of the most prestigious and historical educational institutions in Ontario. PCVS is bursting with positive energy from hopeful high school students because it has such a unique stimulating environment–which also helps stimulate the downtown economy. This positive and motivating energy in the city’s downtown core, could never be replicated by using it for anything other than a high school–The Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School.

    This very major decision is worthy of a community vote. So why don’t we have one? You have sent letters out to parents to vote on much less significant issues. Why don’t you send letters out to parents at all of the high schools on this one? This would be the only fair and just way to go about such a major decision.

    Tricia Clarkson
    699 Fortye Drive
    Peterborough, ON
    K9K 2G4

  2. Donald Fraser says:

    thank you, tricia, for joining in on this important dialogue.

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