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Municipal groups raise concerns about school closures, seek changes to funding, review process

Both the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) and the Rural Ontario Municipal Association (ROMA) have written to the province raising concerns about school closures and asking for several changes to school funding allocation and Accommodation Review Guidelines which outline the process for school closure decisions.

In a March 16 letter to Premier Hon. Kathleen Wynne and Minister of Education, Hon. Mitzie Hunter, AMO notes that the issue of school closures “has risen to the forefront among our members, with many municipal governments passing Council resolutions calling for a moratorium on school closures.” Burlington is a member of AMO and the mayor sits on the board. Our council has not taken a position on school closures.

ROMA raised the negative impact of busing kids out of their community, often long distances to a larger school.

“While we recognize that busing students to larger schools may offer them a broader range of courses, specialized facilities and access to extracurricular activities, it also means these students lose the connection to their own communities.” stated ROMA’s March 15 letter to the premier and education minister.

Both AMO and ROMA asked the province to:

  • reverse the changes to the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines to allow for greater community input, and a longer review process
  • ensure the value of a school to its students’ wellbeing, community and local economy are formally considered in the review process
  • financially support low-enrolment schools with high community value, and support long-term school board planning and partnership development, particularly before new schools develop and throughout the lifespan of a school “to facilitate innovative solutions.”

AMO  and ROMA welcomed new funding for joint-use opportunities between school boards, as well as initiatives to explore community hubs in schools, however they cautioned that hubs “should not be seen as a panacea solution.” Hubs may help keep a school open, but they presume community partner organizations “have resources to contribute, which is not the case in all communities.”

ROMA said school boards should be “required to consider using available school space before they build, purchase or lease any other space” including a requirement to look for community partners and other boards “to engage in co-planning, co-financing and co-construction.”

Had this requirement been in place in Burlington before Hayden was built, would it have gone ahead given the extra space in existing schools, thus preventing the entire situation we now find ourselves in? Many residents have asked that question.

ROMA raised concerns about funding reductions in 2015 to the declining enrolment grant, top-up funding for schools at 65% capacity, and restrictions to eligibility for “supported school” funding.

ROMA also suggested changes to accommodation review committees, specifically that students and community representatives are optional but should be  required. Municipal governments can also be invited to participate but should instead “be mandated to be included.”

Read the letters:

AMO School Closures 2017-03-16

ROMA Rural School Closures 2017-03-15

My Take:

I welcome the support from AMO and ROMA raising concerns that many of us involved in the Program & Accommodation Review process in Burlington have discovered along the way. Change is necessary to the funding formula, PAR process and long-term board planning to protect the best interests of students and communities, and be fiscally responsible.

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.

2 Comments

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  1. Marianne
    I read your summary of the various reports yesterday and again these comments this morning I want to thank thank you both for your clarity and what is obviously an enormous work that you have put into this project
    Dennis Walker

    • Thank you Dennis, and others on this thread who have similarly offered thanks. Can not think of a more important issue to devote time to than the future of our kids education, and our communities!

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