Rural schools on the chopping block

Tracking the effects on rural communities and the efforts of local residents


Photos by Jim Algie


The Ontario Ministry of Education is currently engaging in accommodation reviews and school system adjustments – many of which seem to target the province’s rural schools. According to estimates from the Ontario Alliance Against School Closures, 500 rural schools face major change – including closure.


But farming and rural communities across the province are fighting back. Rural Ontarians are pushing for the preservation of their schools, which often are the cornerstones of local communities.

Derby Public School, Owen Sound,

Derby Public School, located near Owen Sound, was closed at the end of the 2015/2016 school year. This notice thanks former students and families “for the years of wonderful memories.”


Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute (OSCVI)

A number of well-known Canadians attended the Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute (OSCVI), including Agnes Campbell Macphail. A plaque in front of the school outlines some of Macphail’s accomplishments. She was a popular public speaker and a journalist, and she served as an MPP from 1943 to 1945 and again from 1948 to 1951.


The marker also recognizes the importance of this school in Macphail’s development: “From the family farm in Proton Township, Agnes arrived in Owen Sound and the Collegiate Institute in 1906. An outspoken student, she found the experience focused a lifetime commitment to her rural roots.”



OSCVI closed in September 2016. The facility is currently under renovations. It will re-open as a comprehensive elementary school.


Majesta McClure and Wayne Elder

Majesta McClure and Wayne Elder met at Chesley District High School, now known as the Chesley District Community School (CDCS).


Students in kindergarten through grade 12 attend this school in central Bruce County.

The school board, however, is considering relocating secondary school students to another location.


McClure and Elder are involved in efforts to prevent such a reshuffling and save CDCS.


Big Bruce

Big Bruce stands in front of the Municipality of Arran-Elderslie office, located in Bruce County. Big Bruce is just across the road from the Bluewater District School Board office. His presence demonstrates the centrality of agriculture to the local community.


Rural schools are an important piece of this community – as they are in rural communities across the province.


Lawn sign to save Paisley Central School

Farm families and small town residents are actively campaigning for the preservation of rural schools. Here, a lawn sign shows the efforts to save Paisley Central School, home of the panthers. Supporters are active on social media, too.  


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