Perhaps no school more effectively symbolizes the tight link between the educational component and the social and economic side of a rural community than Benson Public in Cardinal.
How about this for symbolism… Benson was built 68 years ago on a lot donated by the family operating Canada Starch Co., now Ingredion Canada. The corn processing factory almost wraps itself protectively around the school and supplies free heat to it.
Of course, the symbiotic relationship didn’t impress the Upper Canada District School Board which has closed Benson – and 11 other schools in its jurisdiction – even as enrolment grows and a Giant Tiger distribution centre nearing completion nearby will bring 300 new jobs.
To say goodbye, residents were invited June 16-17 to a “Celebration of the Generations,” to take a walk down memory lane along the corridors of Benson Public lined with displays, to join in the opening of a time capsule, enjoy live entertainment, refreshments, commemorative cake and a meet-and-greet at the local Legion branch.
Souvenir T-shirts and pencil sketches of the school were on sale and participants were welcome to help themselves to free books from the school library.
Throughout the weekend, Benson fans – some of whom never attended the school – shook their heads at the loss. Leeds-Grenvillle MPP Steve Clark said all avenues to save the school have been exhausted.
“I’m so sad my old school is closing,” said Julie MacIntyre-Hunt who entered kindergarten in 1975. “I’ll cherish the memories of Benson forever.”
“Attending a school like Benson epitomized the most positive,” said Michelle Reidel, a student from 1985 to 1995. “Everyone knew one another and the friendships, education and life lessons are the legacy Benson leaves with many of us.”
Donna Gladstone, a Benson parent who helped lead the fight to save the school, called it “the heart of our community.”
Benson has been instrumental for generations in attracting and keeping employees at the 200-job factory.
Cardinal Manager Lee Whitley said Ingredion will miss having Benson as a neighbor and the partnership that sprung from that proximity, including with safety celebrations hosted by the company and educational events on Earth Day and World Water Day.
Perhaps no business has ever had a closer better educational partner… and vice versa.