Just a few decades - Shawn Loughlin editorial
What a difference 20 years can make. I don’t mean that in the overarching manner so we can talk about the internet, social media and cell phones; I mean it in terms of 20 years that profoundly changed this community forever.
Every week I personally write the “Looking Back Through The Years” section of The Citizen, just to the left on page four. It just so happens that of the four years of newspapers we randomly selected, two are recounting crucial happenings in Huron County history.
I am talking about the two most recent years of papers: 1999 and 2010. In 1999, townships, villages and towns were all preparing pitches for amalgamation, pairing off two by two.
It’s fascinating to wonder how things would have turned out if Township A would have chosen to partner with Township B instead of Township C. It has also been interesting to see how far the process progressed with some groups before breaking down. Frankly, some of the proposed marriages would have made a lot more geographical sense, but that’s just the opinion of a non-native Huron County resident with the benefit of 20 years of hindsight.
Think of what we now know as North Huron for example. Comprised of Blyth, Wingham and East Wawanosh, it’s a combination of very different wards. For a while, it looked as though Blyth would go south (geographically, not metaphorically) and join up with Hullett. Morris Township also had a few options before partnering with Turnberry.
Amalgamation has changed Huron County forever and not all of those changes have been positive. Alternate amalgamation scenarios can be a fascinating rabbit hole to explore.
The second situation disproportionately affected our area in 2010 and that’s the closure of many of the community’s public schools.
As the Avon Maitland District School Board worked through two accommodation review committee (ARC) processes, our area, frankly, got the shaft when it came to school closures.
What was first billed as a low enrollment issue at Turnberry Central Public School northeast of Wingham would change course a dozen times before everything was said and done. A “super school” was built in the form of Maitland River Elementary School, shipping its Grade 7-8 students to F.E. Madill (solving a low enrollment issue there – killing two birds with one stone). Grey Central Public School would be renamed North Woods Elementary School, also sending its Grade 7-8 students to local high schools and, the most devastating blow, five area public schools were closed.
Blyth, East Wawanosh, Wingham, Brussels and Turnberry Central Public Schools would all be closed by the school board. The process caused nasty knife fights, pitting community against community, and mobilized many who wanted to save their local school. In the end it was all for naught, as the board and its trustees did as they wanted, closing a number of our schools and irreparably hurting communities.
The provincial government is upholding a moratorium on school closures, claiming they have done unanticipated damage to both urban and rural communities (despite the Ontario Public School Boards Association wanting the ban lifted). However, the damage has already been done to communities across the province without schools and while things may be improved going forward, schools will not be returning to those communities anytime soon.
Reading these historical accounts, it’s easy to wish you could reach into the pages and talk some sense into those who negatively affected the future with their shortsighted decisions.