Major changes coming for school closing process
Currently, school boards must undertake a thorough public process when they are considering closing or consolidating schools. Ontario’s Ministry of Education is planning significant changes to the guidelines (see below) for the review process entitled “Accommodation Review” or ARC. The Ministry says that these changes to policy are to “address declining enrolment issues and help eliminate the deficit”. The Ministry maintains that the issue is “underutilized” school space”. According to the Ministry, “70% of Ontario’s schools receive support for space that is not being used for “core (K-12) educational purposes.” However many apparently “underutilized” schools maintain essential educational services including ongoing childcare and adult education courses.
PROVINCIAL PUPIL ACCOMMODATION REVIEW GUIDELINES
||Proposed new model
|ARCs meet regularly over the course of a year, develop a range of options and vote on recommendation(s).
- ARCs would focus on being a conduit for information sharing between the school board and the affected school communities.
- ARCs would respond to school board administration’s initial report which would contain one or more options for closings/consolidations, including a recommended option.
- The ARC report would be a summary of consultation feedback, including, if the ARC desired, options developed by committee members with supporting rationale for each.
- ARCs would not vote or come to a consensus on a final recommendation(s).
|ARC process must take at least seven months with four public meetings.There must be at least 90 days for the public consultation and 60 days between final report and board vote
- Shorten the process to a minimum of five months and requires only two open public meetings.
- Reduce the public consultation period to 60 days.
- Reduce the minimum requirement to 30 days between the final recommendation and the board vote, but require at least 15 days between public delegations and the board vote.
|ARCs must include membership from the broader community.
- ARC members would be parent/guardian representatives from the school(s) under review and school board administration.
- Broader community feedback would be sought through open public meetings or delegations.
|Municipalities can be involved as an ARC member with no other formal role.
- School board would be required to formally invite senior municipal administration and/or municipal councillors to participate in accommodation reviews.
- School boards would be required to ask municipalities for technical support when developing a school’s profile (SIP) for the initial report.
|There are no exceptions to the provincial guidelines and the process cannot be shortened.
- School boards could develop a shortened process to review schools for closing based on distance between schools, number of students in school, utilization rate and the programs in the school.
- The shortened process would have no ARC, be a minimum of two and a half months, with a minimum of one public meeting with no committee consultations, and public delegations before Board of Trustee vote.
- The shortened process must be locally consulted on and approved by trustees, and would become a part of the school board’s local accommodation review policy.
|The initial report that the school board administration supplies to the ARC does not have to include any recommendations, or suggested options.
- School board administration’s initial report must contain one or more options, including a recommended option, with supporting rationale for each option.
- School board administration’s initial report must include information about why things like partnerships or sharing facilities with a co-terminus board are not viable options.
|The board develops a school profile which includes the school’s value to the students, school board, community, and local economy.
- The profile would only include school and school board data – no information about value to the community or the economy.
Public can respond to proposed new guidelines
The Ministry hopes to release the new guidelines by the end of December, but it is possible to comment on the suggested changes before them. To read the full consultation document, click here.
To provide feedback to the Ministry, contact Grant Osborn: Grant.Osborn@ontario.ca; Mathew Thomas: Mathew.P.Thomas@ontario.ca, or Cindy Ryder-Davis: Cindy.Ryder-Davis@ontario.ca