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Burlington Central HS: The process for a school closure & how you can get involved.

NOTE:

Community Meeting to organize a community response to the proposal to close Central Oct.11, 7pm, Wellington Square United Church, 2121 Caroline Street

I’ve recently learned through the newsletter from our Halton District School Board trustee Leah Reynolds (Ward 1&2) that Director of Education is recommending that trustees undertake a Program Accommodation Review (PAR) in every Burlington high school.

imageThe initial scenario for discussion (option 19) recommends the closure of two Burlington high schools: Burlington Central High School and Lester B. Pearson along with boundary and program changes for Dr. Frank J. Hayden SS, MMRobinson HS, Nelson HS, Bateman HS and Aldershot School.

The report says the closure recommendation is a starting point of consultation and may not represent the final recommendation that will come before the Board in May 2017. It can change as a result of public consultations and further investigation.

Trustees are to vote Oct. 19 on whether to engage in a public consultation (PAR) on the staff report October 19. A PAR is a Ministry directed process that enables parents and community to share their perspective on the educational needs of their children and their views on the board’s specific proposal for change.

How a Program Accommodation Review works:

Burlington Central School at risk of closure
Burlington Central School at risk of closure

I have collected some additional information for residents on how a Program Accommodation Review works, and opportunities for public input.

The first step, which will be voted on by the HDSB trustees Oct. 19, is a Program Accommodation Review (PAR). The outcomes of a PAR can include school closures, consolidations, construction, boundary changes, or program relocation.

The PAR process includes requirements for public notice and opportunities for residents, parents and stakeholders to participate. There is also provision for a municipal councillor to formally participate, and I will be looking for that opportunity. I will keep residents informed if a PAR is called, how you can make your views known, and how we can work together to keep our schools open and vibrant, in the best interest of our students and entire community.

School review process

In 2015, the Ministry of Education, as part of their School Board Efficiencies and Modernization Strategy, released two major documents: The Community Planning and Partnership Guidelines and Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines. The Community Planning and Partnership Guidelines directs Boards to identify potential partnership opportunities and to share such opportunities with government agencies and parties that expressed interest for such opportunities.

In response, the Halton District School Board adopted the new Community Planning and Partnership Policy on October 21, 2015. The first annual Community Planning and Partnership meeting was held on June 22, 2016, in Burlington. Approximately eight organizations had representatives at this meeting. There have been three follow up meetings and preliminary inquiries with interested partners since June 2016. At this time, there has been expressed interest in potential partnerships, but no specific details related to a partnership within a Burlington secondary school(s).

The Ministry of Education released the revised Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines in March 2015. This guideline provides school boards with an efficient tool to address a Board’s need to close or consolidate facilities. Community participation is a requirement in the updated guideline. The Halton District School Board developed a Program and Accommodation Review (PAR) Policy. For a PAR to occur, a committee of school representatives is required. This policy was adopted on February 17, 2016 and this PAR will adhere to the policy.

Conditions Required for A Program and Accommodation Review (PAR)

As outlined in the Board PAR policies, the Director must prepare a Preliminary Report which identifies a school or group of schools that may be considered for a Program and Accommodation Review. In order for a PAR to be initiated, one of five conditions must be met. The conditions are as follows:

  1. The school or a group of schools has/have experienced or will experience declining enrolment where On-The-Ground Capacity (OTG) utilization rate is below 65%;

  2. Reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities;

  3. Under normal staffing allocation practices, it would be necessary to assign three or more grades to one class in one or more schools;

  4. The current physical condition of the schools negatively impacts the optimum operation of the building(s) and program delivery;

  5. In respect of one or more of the schools under consideration there are safety, accessibility and/or environmental concerns associated with the building of the school site or its locality.

The Program and Accommodation review process will comprise the following steps:

● Director’s Preliminary Report to the Board of Trustees;

● Preparation of the School Information Profile(s);

● Board of Trustee’s approval to undertake a Program and Accommodation review process;

● Communication with all stakeholders about the process, opportunities for involvement, and identifying outcomes;

● Establishing the Program and Accommodation Review Committee;

● Consultation with Local Municipal Governments/Community Partners;

● Public Meetings;

● Final Staff Report, including a Community Consultation section;

● Public Delegations to the Board of Trustees;

● Decision by the Board of Trustees; and,

● Implementation and Transition Planning.

Long Term Accommodation Plan (LTAP)

On an annual basis, the Long Term Accommodation Plan (LTAP) is published and adopted by the Board of Trustees. This document provides enrolment projections for the upcoming ten years for all schools in Halton. The plan identifies review areas and schools where enrolment issues are projected to occur within the immediate future and the need to undertake associated Halton District School Board 31 boundary studies. The 2015/2016 LTAP and Board report states that a consideration should be given to undertaking a PAR for all secondary schools in Burlington.

Under-enrolment for multiple Burlington secondary schools has been a concern for the last four plus years, and has been stated since the 2012/2013 LTAP Board Report. Projections do indicate that future growth will not significantly impact secondary enrolments.

Resources:

Program and Accommodation Review Policy

Long Term Accommodation Plan – 2013/2014, Staff Report April 10, 2014

Long Term Accommodation Plan & Resources

Long Term Accommodation Plan Q&A

My Take:

As a parent of children attending Aldershot and Burlington Central schools, I’m dedicated to ensuring these schools are successful and remain open. The community, and my office, would oppose closure not just for these schools, but elsewhere in Burlington. Schools are the heart of our communities, and if we want to encourage vibrant, walkable neighbourhoods, retaining our existing local schools is key. I will be asking to sit on the PAR committee as the municipal representative if a review is undertaken. I will also follow this issue closely and let residents know through the newsletter if a PAR is called later this year, and how you can get involved.

I’m thankful to Leah Reynolds, public school trustee for Wards 1 & 2, for alerting me to the proposed Program Accommodation Review, and pointing me toward appropriate resources. It will be important for city councillors and school trustees to work closely together, especially if a PAR is called. If you’re interested in following this and other school board issues, sign up for Leah’s electronic newsletter.

Your Take:

What are your thoughts about the enrolment projections and program options for schools in our community? Leave a comment below or email me at marianne.meedward@burlington.ca

I was inspired to seek public office because I believe, like so many of you, “I can do something about that” on the issues we face. As councilor, my role is to take a stand on what’s best for residents and go to bat for it. Pushback is inevitable from those who don’t have the community’s interests at heart. I will stand with you and for you, to achieve the best interests of our city, without caving to unacceptable compromise in the name of consensus.

7 Comments

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  1. We would be very disappointed to see Central close, as access to public elementary and secondary schools, without the use of a bus, was one of the deciding factors bringing us to the core. My children are still 10 years out from high school, but if the school were to close and the recommended boundaries come in to effect, our children would be sent to Nelson HS. This is an hour and 15 minute walk according to Google, or a 15 minute drive. Just not acceptable. At least with 10 years warning we could relocate closer to another school (probably Hayden), though we do not wish to leave the core. I can’t imagine the stress and worry this causes to those whose children are only a few years away!

  2. Also they are both should be historical buildings… you have already torn down old buildings and landmarks in the downtown core for new apartments and condo’s. Where are these kids and families going to school if the city is building up downtown core ?

  3. There are a lot of generations that went to this school me included and the high school. You take all the school out of the downtown core, what do you think going to happen. The government wants smaller class rooms you did this and the sister schools are going to pact. Also the government and city of burlington want eco friendly options… bravo take a down town core school out and no one is going to walking and more busses on route…. If this happens slow clap for you… in the big towers that you will be driving 30 min in traffic to get your kid to school instead of them walking to central PS and high school

  4. Don’t close the school if your just gonna build a bunch more houses that aren’t really needed, even if the school is really old, poor and had fewer students then a lot of schools does not mean its a bad school, most people go there because its a great school, we may not have the nicest stuff but the community in the school is great, and it is one of the only high schools were it does not matter what grade your in, you can find your spot were u belong. One of reasons its not that popular is because the board stopped putting money into it, and i get why a lot of the athletic students left, they want a placed with better equipment and coaching. All im saying is that if the board puts more money into it, it coudl have the potential to be a great school

  5. Please don’t close our community school, I want my kids to be able to walk to school, not be bused to another community. One of the reasons we chose where we live. Walking to school helps with daily activity for them, keeps our community vibrant. Helps to retain our history and architecture in the downtown core. Closing Central would be a colossal mistake to our city & downtown core

  6. Once again it seems that different levels of government do not communicate. With all the new condo developments, both high-rise and townhouses going into the downtown core is it assumed that no one with children will be living in them. In the core we are constantly being told to change our mode of transportation. Walk, cycle or take public transit. How will this ever be accomplished if there are no public schools located in these residential areas?

  7. This is a starting point for the board to review not only Aldershot and Central but all the high schools in Burlington.
    If a PAR is set up it’s important that the most impartial group possible be assembled to ensure any decisions made are in the best interest of all schools and the city.
    The composition of the PAR committee you provided attempts to do just that.

    I am not suggesting that you could not make a decision without bias and understand you eagerness to be involved as a member of the committee however, as you have said, you have children attending both schools and are the councilor of one of the ward’s under consideration.

    As with all residents you have the opportunity to have your opinions heard however, to avoid any whiff of bias it may be advisable to have a councilor representative from outside the effected ward’s or have council designate the position.

What's your take?