SOUTH DUNDAS – The Ontario Public School Board Association has called for the Ontario government to lift the province’s moratorium on school closures.
The call to lift the school closure moratorium was one of several recommendations made by the OPSBA, which represents English-Public school boards and school authorities in Ontario. The group released the recommendations February 20th.
In addition to lifting the school closure moratorium, the group has called for new guidelines for Pupil Accommodation Reviews, the progress for addressing school closures and boundary modifications.
Ontario’s school closure moratorium was put in place in July 2017 by then Education minister Mitzie Hunter after several school boards including the Upper Canada District School Board underwent accommodation reviews. At that time, the UCDSB decided to close eight schools and expand or consolidate four other schools. Included in that closure was Benson Public School in Cardinal, and the high school portion of Rothwell-Osnabruck School in Ingleside.
The OPSBA said in a release that lifting the school closure ban would allow boards to make “prudent programming and financial decisions.”
The group recommended that the June 2015 accommodation review guidelines be revised to include more input from secondary student voices when a secondary school is under consideration; a shorter economic outlook forecast for the impact on a community where a closure may take place; and a five month long process instead of the current seven month process.
Also called for was a standardized set of templates for measuring responses and conditions of information received during a PAR process, and keeping a minimum of two public consultation meetings for an area affected.
While some boards agree with the OPSBA call to lift the moratorium, UCDSB chair John McAllister reiterated the board’s stance that it will continue with its current roster of schools.
“The Pupil Accommodation Review was difficult and unsettling for many communities but necessary,” he said. “Because the UCDSB acted as it did, we are in a good place and, I repeat, there is absolutely no contemplation of further school closures even if the moratorium were to be lifted. End of story.”
McAllister added that new guidelines for accommodation reviews may be welcomed by people who were dissatisfied with the current guidelines, especially in rural communities.
“Be that as it may, it could prove to be an interesting dialogue.”
Phillip Blancher, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Leader