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.
The 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:
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:
- 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%;
Reorganization involving the school or group of schools could enhance program delivery and learning opportunities;
Under normal staffing allocation practices, it would be necessary to assign three or more grades to one class in one or more schools;
The current physical condition of the schools negatively impacts the optimum operation of the building(s) and program delivery;
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.
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.
What are your thoughts about the enrolment projections and program options for schools in our community? Leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org