RSM-UPEI Opposes School Closures!

RSM-UPEI Opposes School Closures!

On February 1st a public meeting about the proposed closure of 5 PEI schools was held at Colonel Gray High School in Charlottetown. RSM-UPEI chairperson Nova spoke at the meeting, highlighted that these closures are an attack on working class communities and, in the case of closing St Jean Elementary, they are a step toward gentrifying the midtown area. This is a video of the speech from RSM-UPEI, and the following is a transcript:

“Good evening. My name is Nova Arsenault and I’m the chairperson of the UPEI chapter of the Revolutionary Student Movement. We are an anticapitalist organization for youth and students with chapters from coast to coast. We oppose the proposed closures because we believe they amount to an attack on working class communities and, in particular, the children in those communities. I’ll explain in what way this issue affects the working class as a whole.

In order for people as workers to get decent jobs with livable wages, to make healthy decisions in life, and ultimately to liberate their class from capitalist exploitation, education is of utmost importance. This education must be as cheap as possible — preferably free of charge, it must be accessible to all, and it must be thorough and accurate. Schools must also provide programs for children with special needs, and services that benefit the community as a whole. In the case of St. Jean Elementary specifically, we have that. Contrary to what the government-appointed school board has said, an average class size of 17-18 students is not “underutilization”, it is an adequate class size that provides students an opportunity for one-on-one time with their teachers. Operating at 100% capacity should never be the goal, as any influx of new students — refugee students or new immigrants — would abruptly overcrowd the school and put unnecessary stress on both students and teachers. Closing a school like St. Jean that provides services for autistic children, math and literacy programs, and houses a dental clinic*, would also overburden other local establishments that provide these services, and would leave people scrambling to claim their place in line at another establishment. Affordability and the cost of travel would also become a major issue for families who have to travel longer distances to take their children to school, or for those who may have to relocate to make transportation easier. This would impact poor working class families and rural residents the hardest.

In terms of the capitalist exploitation of entire communities, the closure of St. Jean in particular is just one more step in the process of gentrification of the midtown area. For those who are unfamiliar with the term gentrification, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” In simpler terms; when people with money come in, poorer people tend to get pushed out. We can see that this process has already begun: the construction of pricey condominiums on Passmore street and the block surrounding it, and the closure of the Co-Op grocery store just a few blocks north are early factors of making this area unsuitable for poorer people. The next major obstacle to the gentrification of this area is St. Jean Elementary. Now, I have no ties with any local political parties, businesses, or developers. I have no insider information on this issue of gentrification. But to paraphrase Bob Dylan who I’m sure you’re all familiar with, “I don’t need to be Boomer Gallant to know which way the wind is blowing.” The wind of capitalism is blowing the downtown petty-bourgeois development northward into midtown, and we need to brace ourselves for the storm of capitalism that will follow if these closures happen.

Now, my recommendations to the board would be a reinvestigation of capacity and zoning issues, taking into account very carefully the zoning-related and capacity-related recommendations of the other speakers today, and also to not close any of the schools most importantly.

My recommendations to the public are that these closures absolutely must be stopped, and if we band together we can stop them. If the closures go ahead, the Revolutionary Student Movement intends to organize students at UPEI, high school students across the province, workers, parents, and the affected communities at large, to march to the PEI Public Schools Branch and make our demands heard as loudly as possible if they proceed with these closures.

And I leave you with three basic principles:
Education before greed;
People before profit;
And the interests of the children before the interests of the government!
Thank you.”

*the part about the dental clinic is out of date, the dental clinic was removed and the office is now used by CHANCES.

Solidarity with LDSS and CVDCS Student Walkouts Against School Closures!

Solidarity with LDSS and CVDCS Student Walkouts Against School Closures!

This past Wednesday, in solidarity with last week’s student walkout at Lively District Secondary School (LDSS), members of RSM-Sudbury gathered there to distribute a slightly different version of the statement below among the students, and to write messages of solidarity in chalk around the school. That same day, students at Chelmsford Valley District Composite School (CVDCS) also staged a walkout, inspired by LDSS students. We greet that action with the same enthusiasm and our statement has been amended accordingly.

Students of LDSS and CVDCS!

Down with the school closures!The Revolutionary Student Movement – Sudbury (RSM-Sudbury) congratulates you on the mass walkouts you organized over the past week to protest plans by the Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) to close your schools!

As the local chapter of a country-wide organization of anti-capitalist students and youth, with members at a few high schools in Sudbury and at Laurentian University, we wish to extend to you our full solidarity and support in this struggle.

Last month we were dismayed to learn about the RDSB’s announcement of massive and accelerated cuts to school infrastructure and educational programs – but the defiant stand you have taken gives us hope! And we are sure there are many others being inspired by your rebellious spirit.

You know better than anyone about the countless hardships these closures will create for many thousands of students, families, teachers and support staff across Greater Sudbury. The loss of jobs, community resources, educational and extracurricular programmes, hopes and social bonds will be hardest felt among low-income, working-class, rural and Indigenous communities.

And for what? The RDSB is trumping up a relatively small budget shortage to justify a sweeping attack on many communities that are already struggling with effects of past school closures – and with a social, economic and political system that leaves us poor, powerless and without prospects for the future. Meanwhile the School Board has no problems finding $7 million to spend on a new office for their bureaucrats!

That is why the cuts must be fought, that is why you are fighting, and that is why RSM-Sudbury has been gearing up to join the fight by your side. When we first heard about the walkout in Lively, we were in the midst of organizing a series of student speak-outs across Greater Sudbury, including in Lively and Chelmsford, to condemn the school closures. The speak-outs are meant to let students and families express their anger and unite for mass actions, just like what you did last week. They will also provide a fighting alternative to the phoney public meetings that the RDSB will be holding in the coming weeks, the aim of which is to create the illusion of ‘community input’ and stem the tide of grassroots struggle.

And a broad, united fight to the finish is absolutely necessary, because we are going up against powerful forces that will not budge unless we force their hand. The School Board and the Government have already shown they are no friends of us students, like in Spring 2015 when they worked together to crush the high school teachers’ strike that fought for better quality of education, for smaller and more personalized classes. The system that these institutions represent offers us nothing, unless we demonstrate that we have the strength to take it regardless of the wishes of those in power.

Your example deserves to be imitated widely, both at schools directly affected by the cuts and at schools that have been spared for now. Our hope is that the speak-outs will go a small way toward building a combative movement of students and supporters in Greater Sudbury that will toss the RDSB’s plans into the trash.

Solidarity with students of LDSS and CVDCS!

Fight the school closures all across Greater Sudbury!

No compromise, no cuts!

We invite all sympathetic students and supporters who wish to work together with us to push this struggle forward to contact our Facebook page or email You can also come out to our twice-weekly general meetings:

  • Tuesdays, 3:30-6pm on the main floor of the Mackenzie Public Library
  • Thursdays, 7-9pm in room C-318 (Classroom Building) at Laurentian University