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Slater photo

Slater photo

Uniondale residents Lois Smith (left) and Ruth Rout stand in front of a group of parents from A.J. Baker Public School, who are among those community members actively working to convince the Thames Valley District School Board not to follow through on a recommendation from administrative staff to close the Kintore school.

Chalmers Church holds campaign kick-off to save A.J. Baker

By Stew Slater
Staff reporter

The signs and campaign buttons currently being distributed may be of the resurrected variety — retrieved from the garages or storage spaces of A.J. Baker parents and community members who were around the last time there was a threat that the Thames Valley District School Board would close the Kintore elementary school. And one of the loudest and most persistent voices to keep the school open — at least judging from a community meeting held Wednesday, Feb. 6 at the village’s Chalmers United Church — may be a parent whose children have now moved on to secondary school in Ingersoll.

Neither of those things matter now, however, as a strong and growing contingent of parents with children currently attending the school have come to the forefront in 2013, hoping to convince Thames Valley trustees to reject a proposal from administrators to close the school.

Uniondale-area parent Marcus Ryan welcomed everyone to the Feb. 6 meeting, which attracted dozens of parents but also a considerable number of community members — grandparents, aunts and uncles, or neighbours. Ryan explained the recent decision to place A.J. Baker in the Northwest Oxford Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) along with schools in Thamesford, Thorndale and Embro, and offered his theory that the eventual proposal will be to relocate almost the entire A.J. Baker student body to Zorra Highland Public School near Embro.

By Ryan’s calculations, he noted, for his two children, that could translate into a 72-minute bus ride each way. The Thames Valley board’s maximum ride length is 75 minutes.

Kintore area parent Henriette MacArthur, who brought along a bundle of “Save A.J.” signs from the community’s previous fight against the board in the mid-2000s, enlightened those in attendance about the ARC process. Despite the fact her children no longer attend the Kintore school, she has maintained an almost constant vigil at regular meetings of the Thames Valley trustees in London.

“I bring along a sign to every meeting. I call it my date,” she laughed. Ryan noted that, from now until the ARC decision, A.J. Baker supporters wearing yellow shirts will join MacArthur at the meetings.

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