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PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:29 pm    Post subject: PC's want province wide moratorium on school closures Reply with quote

( I'm sure this isn't just a problem in Ontario and is an issue in other regions of Canada as well , rural schools are being closed at an alarming rate )

PCs want province to halt all school closures

Patrick Brown
Ontario Provincial Conservative Leader Patrick Brown, answers questions from the media in Toronto on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. (Peter Power/The Canadian Press)

The Canadian Press
Published Tuesday, March 7, 2017 12:23PM EST

Ontario's Progressive Conservatives are calling for a moratorium on school closures in the province and a review of the guidelines that determine them.

PC Leader Patrick Brown says the Liberal government is trying to find savings on the backs of students by putting schools on the chopping block.

Premier Kathleen Wynne notes those decisions are made by school boards, but says the government has urged the boards to think twice before closing schools.

The education and infrastructure ministers sent a letter to school boards Monday telling them it is the government's "strong preference" that before closures, they fully explore sharing facilities between the four English, French, public and Catholic school systems.

Of the 4,900 publicly funded schools in Ontario, 37 have joint-use arrangements, in which students from one or more boards use the same building.

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter says Brown's proposal of a moratorium is "arbitrary" and "would limit locally elected school boards from collaborating with their communities and implementing creative solutions based on the needs of their students and their communities."


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ontario Progressive Conservatives call for school closure moratorium

Patrick Brown says school closures are 'a crisis in rural Ontario, that has now grown to the cities'

By Mike Crawley, CBC News Posted: Mar 07, 2017 11:30 AM ET| Last Updated: Mar 07, 2017 11:41 AM ET

Marianne Meed Ward has two children in Grade 11 at Burlington Central High School, currently being considered for closure. She appeared at a news conference Tuesday at Queen's Park with PC Leader Patrick Brown.

The opposition Progressive Conservatives are calling for a province-wide moratorium on school closures, as parent groups in cities and small towns across Ontario lobby their school trustees to keep schools open.

PC Leader Patrick Brown made the call at Queen's Park Tuesday, accompanied by parents and children whose schools are threatened with closure in places that range from Burlington to the small town of Paisley, near Kincardine.

"There is a crisis in rural Ontario, that has now grown to the cities, on school closures," Brown told a news conference.

Although school closure decisions are made by local boards, Brown blames the provincial government.

"It's a system the Liberals have set up that actually rewards a school board for closing schools," he said. "They actually tell boards they're not going to get any capital funding unless they close schools."

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter is urging boards across the four English and French public and Catholic school systems to look for ways of sharing facilities with each other before resorting to closures

In Question Period, Premier Kathleen Wynne rejected what she called the "blunt instrument of a moratorium".


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Trustees mull closure of 12 UCDSB schools as MPP asks them to fight province

Final decision expected March 23

By Julie Ireton, CBC News Posted: Mar 03, 2017 7:26 AM ET| Last Updated: Mar 03, 2017 7:47 AM ET

Leeds—Grenville MPP Steve Clark is calling on the Upper Canada District School Board to stand up to the province by refusing to close rural schools.

At an Upper Canada District School Board meeting in Kemptville Thursday evening, Leeds—Grenville MPP Steve Clark called on trustees to stand up to Ontario's Ministry of Education by putting a moratorium on rural school closures.

Board staff recommend shuttering a total of 12 schools in the board. Seven of them are in his riding alone, the Progressive Conservative member said.

The final decision is expected March 23.

The Upper Canada District School Board, or UCDSB, covers a large swath of eastern Ontario including the communities in and around Cornwall, Brockville, Gananoque, Kemptville, Smiths Falls, Perth and the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

"Basically, one in four elementary schools this board has in Leeds Grenville are slated to close," Clark said during his presentation to trustees.

"It's just unbelievable that the board would not take recommendations that were given to them. They didn't move forward on some of the suggestion that municipalities offered them to work together."

School brd trustees
Trustees are considering closing 12 schools. (CBC)

Board blames funding cuts, lower enrolment

On Feb. 15, after hearing from many parents, municipal and community leaders, board staff presented their final report, which explained that enrolment decline and provincial funding cuts for operating and maintaining schools mean some schools must close.

"The board has significantly more instructional space than it receives funding to operate and to maintain our schools ... The provincial funding the board receives for all aspects of schools favours the consolidation of schools to demonstrate optimal levels of enrolment and efficient use of school space," reads the report.

But on Thursday, Clark urged the trustees to change tack.

"My hope is the board will reject this report and challenge the province," he said.

Upper Canada School Board meeting
Many parents attended the UCDSB meeting on Thursday night in Kemptville. (CBC)

Some trustees, including David McDonald who represents the Cornwall ward, didn't appreciate Clark's lecture.

"Thank you Mr. Clark for being here, it's not often we get an MPP to use the school board as a soap box for their political party," said McDonald, drawing a few boos from the audience.

McDonald went on to say it was Clark's party, a Progressive Conservative government, that implemented the current funding model back in the late 1990s under then-premier Mike Harris.

"That per-pupil funding has created the situation we have in our communities, not just in eastern Ontario, but across the province," explained McDonald. "That per-pupil funding is really to benefit the heavy density population municipalities."

'One board has to stand up'

With new provincial funding cuts, boards across the province are making similar decisions to close under-populated schools.

On Wednesday, Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustees voted to close six urban schools.

That board's chief financial officer said it's been close to two decades since board officials have had to make such sweeping facility decisions.

PC leader Patrick Brown has called for a March 7 debate at Queen's Park about a moratorium on rural school closures.

"It's devastating when a school is closed and children have to get on a bus and go long distances," said Clark, who's calling on the Upper Canada board to work with other school boards, municipalities and MPPs to figure out better solutions.

"One board has to stand up to the province and I hope it's this one."

Proposed UCDSB school closures
■Benson Public School, effective September 2017.
■Plantagenet Public School, effective September 2017.
■Rideau Centennial Public School, effective September 2017.
■Rothwell-Osnabruck School (Grades 7-12), effective September 2017.
■S.J. McLeod Public School, effective September 2017.
■Prince of Wales Public School, effective September 2018.
■Wolford Public School, effective September 2018.
■Oxford-on-Rideau Public School, effective September 2018 (subject to making space available at South Branch Elementary School).
■North Stormont Public School, at a date to be confirmed pending ministry approval for an addition at Roxmore Public School.
■Maynard Public School, at a date to be confirmed pending ministry approval for an addition or rebuild of Wellington Elementary School.
■St. Lawrence Secondary School/Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School, at a date to be confirmed pending ministry approval for the rebuild of a Grade 7-12 school in Cornwall.
■Toniata Public School, at a date to be confirmed pending ministry approval for the rebuild of a new Brockville elementary school to consolidate Toniata and Commonwealth Public School with Prince of Wales Public School.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

How school closures threaten the heart of small-town Ontario

More than 600 schools in the province are half empty. But can rural students get a good education without them?

Published on Dec 15, 2016

by Louise Brown

a student walking behind a school sign

There are too many schools for too few students in Ontario — especially in northern and rural communities like Georgian Bay. (Adrian Wylde/CP)

Suddenly school closings are in the news again — the return of a political nightmare.

Fifteen years after sweeping closures of half-empty schools sparked protest at Queen's Park (resulting in a moratorium on further shutdowns), it's happening again. In far-flung towns across the north and east of the province, where populations are shrinking, local boards will decide the fate of dozens of under-enrolled schools.

If the schools go, many fear, so will the heart of small-town Ontario. That's not just the cry of families fearing change: of those local institutions that engender a sense of community (post office, recreation centre, library), it's schools that do the most heavy lifting, according to sociologist T.A. Lyson’s 2002 report, “What Does a School Mean to a Community?” Among 350 rural villages in New York State, Lyson found those that had lost their schools were less likely to see population growth, were less likely to attract middle-class families, and experienced higher rates of poverty.

"On virtually every indicator of social and economic well-being, larger rural communities with schools ranked higher than communities without schools," he said.

Still, there are too many schools for too few students in Ontario, especially in northern and rural communities.

"When you shut down a school, a community dies,” said David Thompson, chair of the Near North District School Board. “Education is one of the main legs of a town's economy." The board's elected trustees must decide whether to merge six schools down to two in North Bay next year. With 10,000 students spread across 17,000 square kilometres from Mattawa to Parry Sound, Near North’s 35 schools average 64 per cent enrolment. Some of those schools are tiny: Argyle Public School, in Port Loring, has just 55 students from kindergarten to Grade 8. If it were to close, the nearest alternative would be 74 kilometres away.

“You close down a school in a small town and kids suddenly spend hours on the bus going to other communities," said Thompson, noting that long commutes leave little time for students to engage in extra-curricular activities. (At Amalguin Highlands Secondary School, in South River, the board rents buses two nights a week to bring kids back to school for extra-curriculars.)

"I'm tired of people from the south saying, 'Well, you choose to live there.' Yes, we live here, and our kids deserve equity in education."

So what's happened?

Follow the money, and you'll see that the extra “top-up” funding the Liberals have long granted school boards to soften the blow of declining enrolment is coming to an end, as the province works to wipe out its deficit by 2018. For the first time in more than a decade, local trustees have to budget without that net. Because two-thirds of education funding is based on enrolment, this is especially hard on small and under-enrolled schools: they still have to heat the same building and pay the same staff, but with less money.

And enrolment continues to plummet. In 2015, Ontario had 140,000 fewer students than it did in 2002, according to the advocacy group People for Education. Not surprisingly, the loss was greater in the north, which has seen its population shrink along with the resource sector. In 2012, the average elementary school had just 177 students, compared with 405 in the Greater Toronto Area. Nearly 600 schools in Ontario were half empty; the province says it’s spending $250 million a year on vacant space.

There's also growing competition for students between the four public school systems — English public, English Catholic, French public, and French Catholic. "We have fewer students coming to our board, partly because of the growing demand for French-language education," says trustee David McDonald of the Upper Canada District School Board, which could shut down as many as 29 facilities over the next two years.

"Fifty years ago we didn't have publicly funded Catholic high schools or the French-language school boards to compete with,” he says, “but now a student has four choices, often in pretty small communities."

Yet there are also examples of boards joining forces to serve the shrinking student body, sometimes by sharing space. Education minister Mitzie Hunter praised Near North for teaming up with its French-language counterpart in Sturgeon Falls, one of the small towns where they both run schools. "This partnership involves the Near North board leasing out a portion of its Northern Secondary School to École Secondaire Publique Northern,” Hunter said in an email. “The boards currently share a library, gym and cafeteria."

In the government's defence, Hunter notes that since 2012, Queen's Park has increased funding for rural schools by 5.7 per cent. It has provided $750 million to help ease the closing process and another $14 billion for 760 new schools and 735 additions across Ontario.

Still, the end of the province's top-up funding — to be phased out over three years — is a major blow to small and rural schools already unable to afford the pricey extras their urban counterparts enjoy, such as libraries and guidance counsellors. (Only 44 per cent of schools in rural areas have a librarian, compared with 60 per cent in cities.) These schools are also half as likely to employ specially trained gym and music teachers, or to have access to social workers, according to People for Education.

The government contends that by closing half-empty buildings and creating schools with greater enrolment figures, there will be more money to give rural students the programs and supports their urban peers have.

But small towns without schools are less appealing to young families, warns Annie Kidder, executive director of People for Education: "This raises the question of our vision for the province. What do we want Ontario to look like? It's happening all across the country as small towns lose their post office, then their court house, and then their school."

Kidder says Ontario could update the enrolment averages it uses in its funding formula so schools aren't as harshly penalized for being under-enrolled. They could also consider keeping local schools open by bringing in other public agencies to create community hubs: "We could get better at planning together when we're opening or closing a public building, to look at how we can share space and services."

But for now, Kidder says boards are "caught between a rock and a hard place. They have communities begging, 'Don't close our school!' and government saying, 'Get to work consolidating your space.'

"How do you have a balance between closing the schools that should close, and the impact that has on small communities? We have to be thinking of the quality of our whole society."

Louise Brown covered education for the Toronto Star for nearly 30 years.


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PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 1:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rural Ontario school closings hit communities hard

Students forced to spend hours on bus each day, missing out on extracurricular activities

Andrea Elgar, left to right, walks her daughters Kimberley, 11, and Madeline, 13, home after being dropped off by the sc hool bus. The sisters spend two hours each day on the bus in order to attend Honey Harbour Public School in the Trillium Lakelands School District.

By Kristin RushowyQueen's Park Bureau

Sun., Jan. 22, 2017

Andrea Elgar’s daughters get on a bus at 7:15 each morning, arriving at school an hour later. They don’t get home until 4 p.m. each day.

It’s a commute she already considers too long — one that could get even longer if the only two elementary schools in Honey Harbour are shut down, as has been proposed.

Like those in a number of rural areas across Ontario, the prospect of having no school in town has families worried not only for the future of their communities, but the quality of their children’s education.

“It eliminates their ability to take part in extracurricular sport teams, arts whatever . . . if you take the kids and put them in a community they have no connection to, they won’t have the opportunity to get to know the community,” said Elgar. “Even now, they don’t have time to do homework, they don’t have relaxation time. We moved to be in the country, so when they got home from school they could play — in the winter, by the time they get home, it’s dark.”

If the two small schools are closed — one public, one Catholic — the kids will be facing at least a 70-minute commute each way, and for students whose commute begins with a boat, sled or snowmobile ride into Honey Harbour, the ride will be even longer.

Similar situations are playing out all across the province as boards grapple with declining enrolment, and look to get rid of empty space. Rural schools become a target because they are typically much smaller — though not necessarily underenrolled — and arguments can be made that a bigger school means better programming.

Late last year, parents descended on Queen’s Park to protest the flurry of school closings coming — more than 600 are currently under threat — which boards blame, in part, on changes to funding that was used to help keep those in rural areas going. The organizer, Ontario Alliance Against School Closures, called the closings a “tidal wave . . . sweeping the province” and asked for a moratorium.

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said the province changed the guidelines for school closing reviews in 2015, so “boards must now consult with municipal and community organizations so that everyone has the opportunity to provide meaningful input on accommodation decisions, including on the issue of transportation” before making a decision.

The province, now spending $200 million more on rural schools, has “introduced additional supports for the heating, lighting and maintenance costs of excess spaces in schools that are a considerable distance from the next closest school of the board. Our government is committed to ensuring that students in both urban and rural Ontario have an equal opportunity for an excellent education.”

But there are costs to shuttering schools, said NDP MPP France Gélinas, who has students in her Nickel Belt riding on the bus for three-plus hours a day.

“Families do the calculations and in the winter, kids are longer on the bus than they are in school learning,” she said. “. . . It makes it really hard to make kids like going to school. They resent that — they don’t like the long bus ride.”

Families are now calling on the government to force boards to take into account the impact of closing the only school in town, and putting limits on bus rides, which they fear will also limit kids’ achievement.

David Thompson, chair of the Near North District School Board, said his board — some 17,000 square kilometres in size — has purposefully targeted North Bay schools.

“Our goal is to keep rural schools open,” Thompson said, even those with 40 or 50 students. “I’m not going to say we’re not going to have issues . . . (but) we choose to live in northern Ontario; we also deserve to have equity in education.”

The board has a rule that no student should be bused more than an hour and a half one way each day, and pays for vans two nights a week to transport kids who stay late to take part in extracurriculars.

“Teachers plan activities abounds the bus schedules,” he said. “Two days a week, we get the vans out to the communities . . . it’s not like a kid here can get on a subway.”

The school closing process itself has also come under fire, with parents saying the new, faster accommodation reviews don’t allow for adequate public consultation.

Progressive Conservative Steve Clark — MPP for Leeds-Grenville, where one-third of schools are under threat — said the government needs to sit down and make changes. “The value a school has to the community is not part of process,” he said. “It can be done in six months or faster, and that runs completely counter to the previous process which had many meetings all around the board.”

Like the Near North board, District School Board Ontario North East has tried to spare rural schools when looking at potential closings.

Chair Doug Shearer that in 2012, his board set a guideline of 30 minutes maximum one way for younger students, 45 minutes each way for middle school grades and an hour each way for high school students. It now spends $200,000 on busing “and that comes out of money that would be in the classroom,” Shearer said. “We are looking at continued declining enrolment, and we are trying to stretch and rationalize routes, but the more we do that, the longer they are on the bus.”

Laurie French, of the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, said with changes to remote and rural school funding, boards are now asking for a “local priorities grant” that could help fund things like caretakers or a principal or secretary to keep small schools open.

Marcus Ryan, a councillor in the Township of Zorra, got his start in politics after being part of a successful fight to keep his children’s Thames Valley elementary school open. He said funding boards primarily based on enrolment, and then giving them capital funding when they close schools “is explicitly forcing school boards to close small rural and build large urban schools . . . the funding formula is old and lazily written and doesn’t distinguish between the geographic and demographic diversity of Ontario.”


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 10, 2017 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

March 9, 2017 12:34 pm Updated: March 9, 2017 4:58 pm

Education minister reveals 300 schools in Ontario considered for closure

By Allison Jones The Canadian Press

TORONTO – Three hundred schools in Ontario are on the chopping block, the education minister said Thursday, two days after she refused to provide a figure she called “arbitrary.”

While the closure decisions are made by school boards, the opposition parties are slamming the Liberal government for a lack of transparency about the process, and say the guidelines for those closure considerations need to be changed.

The Progressive Conservatives have called for a moratorium on school closures and a review of those guidelines. The NDP launched a petition Thursday to call for the same measures as the PCs and to fix the “broken” formula for determining which schools might be shut down.

Briefing notes prepared for the education minister that the NDP obtained through a freedom-of-information request list problems with the current formula.

READ MORE: Ontario Progressive Conservatives call for school closure moratorium

“Utilization does not typically recognize all programs/pupils currently using school space,” such as adult day school, programs like English as a Second Language, continuing education and child-care programs, the note reads.

“Buildings used for these programs/pupils appear as underutilized/empty in current utilization calculations even if they are at full capacity. If these buildings are closed/sold, there may not be accessible space available to support those programs.”

The government has said only schools not at full capacity are being shut down, but NDP deputy leader Jagmeet Singh said the briefing document shows that’s not the case.

“They are not measuring the actual capacity of the school,” he said. “They’re not actually able to measure what’s actually going on in the schools and they’re saying, ‘Oh, we’re just shutting down schools that are not being used.’ It’s just a complete betrayal of the trust with people.”

READ MORE: Ontario parents protest slew of rural school closures, claim funding model is faulty

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter said Thursday that the school boards consider a number of factors.

“Schools are looking at a number of different considerations during the review,” she said. “It does not necessarily result in a closure. They’re looking sometimes at what the boundaries are, the conditions of the school. They’re getting input from all sides.”

The guidelines were updated in 2015 to require boards to get feedback from communities, she said.

Hunter told reporters Tuesday she wouldn’t give an “arbitrary number” of schools up for possible closure and walked away from follow-up questions.

READ MORE: Proposed provincial rules would give public less input on school closures

She was not in question period Wednesday, but told the legislature Thursday that there are 43 reviews currently underway involving 300 schools and in the 2016-17 academic year, school boards have decided to close 19 schools.

The NDP discovered through another freedom-of-information request that 277 schools have closed since 2011 – that number comes from a total of 333 schools closed with 56 replacement ones opening.

Susan MacKenzie, with the Ontario Alliance Against School Closures, said Hunter’s “arbitrary” comment was a “slap in the face” to Ontarians. It’s an important number to know, MacKenzie said.

“For one thing they’re public assets, but more importantly there’s communities that are going to be wiped out because of the school closures and the province needs to know about it whether it’s up in Bruce Mines, Ont., or downtown Toronto,” she said.

Hunter and the infrastructure minister sent a letter to school boards Monday telling them it is the government’s “strong preference” that before closures, they fully explore sharing facilities between the four English, French, public and Catholic school systems. Of the 4,900 publicly funded schools in Ontario, 39 have joint-use arrangements, in which students from one or more boards use the same building.

Since coming to power in 2003, the Liberals have increased per-student funding by 63 per cent and invested more than $16 billion in school infrastructure, Hunter said.


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PostPosted: Thu May 25, 2017 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

( news of more rural school closures in rural Ontario )

Despite parent protests, 5 TVDSB elementary schools to close

CTV London
Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017 11:49AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, May 24, 2017 4:12PM EDT

The Thames Valley District School board delivered sobering news for many families in Elgin and Middlesex Counties.

The board has voted in favour of closing five rural elementary schools.

Springfield, Sparta, New Sarum, Westminster and South Dorchester are all set to close after Tuesday night’s vote.

TVDSB, Thames Valley District School Board
The headquarters of the Thames Valley District School Board is seen in London, Ont. on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015. (Bryan Bicknell / CTV London)

Sparta will now be converted to a French immersion school, with most students going to Port Stanley Public School.

The plan also calls for two new schools, one in Belmont and another in south-east St. Thomas.

Staff recommended closing the schools after a major review.

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PC's want province wide moratorium on school closures

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