Key messages - what should the working group reports say?greenspun.com : LUSENET : Ottawa School Closures : One Thread
The ad-hoc Community Working Groups must report to the Board of Education by October 30. In the interest of increasing the impact of any one report, a number of people would like to see the different working group reports contain the same key messages.
The following is a working draft of possible key messages for the reports by the community working groups. Feel free to add your comments and criticisms:
- The school consolidation process imposed by the province is arbitrary, inequitable and stupid.
- The new requirement that a school board achieve 100 per cent capacity across its system before the province approves new capital construction is socially destructive and divisive. Why did the province increase the capacity utilization rate to 100 per cent from the long-standing planning target of 90 per cent, a much more realistic figure?
- Closing as many schools as the province is demanding would be an attack on the quality of life of many Ottawa students and their families. It would mean that a large percentage of Ottawa students that can now attend a neighbourhood school would be bused to more distant schools where they would be schooled in portable classrooms. The quality of life for those students and their families would be less than what they have now.
- Property values in those neighbourhoods that lose their school would fall. Closing ten schools in Ottawa would lower property values by at least $10 million. The implications for the property tax base, not to mention the impact of that big a decrease in net household worth, are significant. That big a fall in the the value of the chief asset of many Ottawa families would be horrendous.
- But the fall in property values only mirrors how people value the quality of life they now have in Ottawa. If public schools become less accessible and more crowded, then the quality of life in Ottawa will be lower than it is now, especially for those neighbourhoods that lose their school.
- There have to be a number of changes to the provincial guidelines that calculate school capacity.
- First, the 100 per cent utilization factor should be replaced with the 90 per cent utilization factor that has historically been used by the department of education.
- Second, there has to be some realistic allowance when setting school capacity (and its vacancy numbers) for special education, english skills development, withdrawal rooms for english as a second language instruction, separate core French and core English rooms and any other legetimate uses that require more space than the 25 students per classroom allowed in the provincial formula for elementary schools.
- The province currently exempts existing daycare centres located on school property to not be included when determining school capacity. This policy should extend to reasonable additional demands for daycare space and any other long-term dedicated rental of school property on a cost-recovery basis. Where there is excess space, and compatible uses are found for it, this is to be encouraged. It adds to the quality of life in Ottawa.
- The schools system in Ottawa is a front-line social agency when it comes to dealing with the large amount of immigrant and refugee families that have settled in Ottawa. The additional resources required for english skills development, family liason, social work counselling have real implications when the province decides to impose a new policy that affects something as basic in a school as having sufficient space.
- The quality of life in Ottawa is due in no small measure to the existing human and capital resources built up over the years by the former Ottawa Board of Education. The existing network of reasonably-sized neighbourhood schools with a variety of programs is an important part of Ottawa's quality of life. It supports families and neighbourhoods.
If these neighbourhoods lose their schools, they will be less attractive places to live.
There you have it. Please help add to this statement and improve it. Thanks.
-- Anonymous, October 23, 1998
More thoughts on key messages.
The province is demanding that the school board decide which schools to close within the next two months. If the school board doesn't get rid of the excess pupil spaces above 100 per cent capacity by the end of December, then tough luck, Charlie, that excess gets carried on the books and you don't get any new money for capital construction.
Closing a school requires careful consideration and consultation with all stakeholders. If Joe's restaurant down at the corner wants to build an addition or an outside patio, the public process that is required for a zoning variance is more extensive than what is required before a school is closed. And the effect on a neighbourhood from closing a school, the effect on the children, and their families, is far more traumatic than an extra 15 seats at Joe's. Doesn't closing a school deserve more attention and consultation than adding more tables to a restaurant?
Somehow, we have to get through to the trustees that the province's process, assumptions and deadline are abusive and likely to result in bad decisions if they follow through and decide to close schools within the next few months.
And it's the people in Ottawa that have to live with these decisions. They are long-term decisions. Once a school is closed and the property disposed of, it won't come back. Think twice before you get rid of anything.
It is important that submissions to the board appeal to the board member's sense of civic duty and that we not not direct criticism at the board.
What do we all want? To provide a good education system for the community. Is closing down schools downtown going to do this?
Ottawa's much-touted quality of life is due in large part to the existing network of neighbourhood schools and the variety of programs that are offered. It is worth keeping.
It would be nice if this process would get the rural trustees to agree to a unified front with the urban trustees so the Board could tell the province to take a hike. The fight shouldn't be here in Ottawa but with Queen's Park.
-- Anonymous, October 27, 1998