Coalition for Public Education - 23 October BULLETINgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Ottawa School Closures : One Thread
Coalition for Public Education
Bulletin 50 - 23 October
IN THIS ISSUE:
- Interactive Web site on School Closures
- news article: Hamilton-Wentworth Board refuses to close schools
- Ottawa-Carleton should just say no!
AD-HOC GROUP ESTABLISHES INTERACTIVE WEB SITE
ON SCHOOL CLOSURES ISSUE
Bill Pristanski writes that a group of people have invited representatives from Sections 2, 3, 4 and 7 to form an ad-hoc committee to lobby the School Board and the City on school closures. As a step in the process they have set up an interactive Web Site to facilitate communication and discussion of the school closures issue:
The objective of the group is to convince Trustees and Councillors that the process is flawed and the City of Ottawa school children and families are being unnecessarily disadvantaged.
The motivation for the ad-hoc committee comes from the frustration that many people participating in the community working groups are feeling with the process:
The committee will try and coordinate a consistent message in the CWG reports to be completed October 30.
- deficiency in the statistical base is deficient
- the fact figures are unrealistic
- the shortness of time
- the assumption of 100% capacity is unrealistic (85% is suggested as a reasonable factor)
- discussions between working groups is essential but difficult to achieve
- the city schools are being sacrificed for future investment in regional/rural schools.
The Web Site has been established by Steve Hall and Donna Silver.
TRUSTEES DEFY PROVINCE : BOARD REFUSES
TO CLOSE SCHOOLS
Defiant Hamilton-Wentworth public school board trustees have thumbed their noses at the provincial government and refused to immediately close any schools.
The move means the board may not be eligible for government money to build badly needed new schools in the next 25 years because it will not meet a ministry-imposed deadline of Dec. 31 to target buildings for closure and cut surplus class space. It also means government operating grants may not be enough to maintain the excess space.
Hamilton-Wentworth has added its name to a small but growing list of communities that are resisting school closures under government pressure.
"They're calling a tune and we don't have to dance to it," said Flamborough Trustee Reg Woodworth, his voice rising. "There is another option: Dump them in the next election!"
That comment got loud cheers from the packed boardroom of parents, children, teachers and local politicians last night as the business committee for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board voted at a special meeting to ignore the list of 20 schools recommended for potential closure in a board report.
Instead, they voted to set up "school zone review committees" which will study the excess capacity issue in each of several geographic zones in the region and report back to the business committee in September 1999. While that doesn't mean any school running under capacity is off the hook, it allows for a less-frenzied manner of deciding which neighbourhoods will eventually lose their schools.
The lower city had borne the brunt of the cuts in the proposed list, which included three high schools and 17 elementary schools, half of which were located below the escarpment.
Meanwhile, the growing suburban municipalities, once a part of the former Wentworth County School Board, came out relatively unscathed. Dundas Central and Lynden elementary schools were the only two on the list.
Yet it was those suburban trustees who began the talk of defiance.
"This whole thing smacks of blackmail," Woodworth said. "You close them, or you don't get the money."
And once Ancaster trustee Bruce Wallace said he would not support the closure list at the upcoming board meeting, the board was on a roll.
"We're not going to play the game anymore," said Ward 6 Trustee Laura Peddle. "(The province) laid out the rules. We don't like them."
The board has been forced to find ways to eliminate unused capacity in its schools because of new provincial funding rules which would not give money to build badly needed new schools in the growing suburban regions while empty classrooms exist elsewhere. It also won't provide operating funds for excess space.
Eighteen elementary public schools in Hamilton-Wentworth are below 70-per-cent occupancy. Eleven public high schools are below 70-per-cent occupancy, all of them in the City of Hamilton.
Liberal MPP for Hamilton East, Dominic Agostino, said the decision may have some short term negative effects -- mainly there won't be any money to build new schools.
But he sees a trend being set.
"I think it may set a pattern here and a trend across Ontario that other school boards may have the guts to follow. If they can stick together, they may win this fight."
Board chairman Ray Mulholland wasn't concerned that the defiance could result in the lack of government funds needed to build new schools in parts of the region that are already overcrowded.
For one thing, he said, the board could close a school as it sees fit, and use the money earned towards a new building.
In fact, Education Minister Dave Johnson said just that on a CHML Radio talk show yesterday.
"If boards do wish to reduce their excess capacity I that could adjust the formula for capital monies," he said. "But boards are not required to meet any particular deadline. If, instead, they choose to retain all of their existing schools, that's fine.
"At some point in time, over the next year, two years, three years, five years, whatever, they could dispose of those schools if they are excess, keep the monies, use those monies to build new schools (and) make major additions. The boards have that kind of flexibility."
NDP MPP for Hamilton Centre, Dave Christopherson, said at the meeting that he is willing to take the board's fight to Queen's Park.
"If there is hardship to be faced, then we'll do it together," he said.
And Hamilton councillors Marvin Caplan and Chad Collins both voiced their support for the board. Both believe closing schools in the city core means the death of downtown revitalization.
The committee approved recommendations that some of its buildings used for administrative and non-board-related instructional purposes be disposed of by offering them to other area school boards free of charge -- Pioneer Memorial and Vincent Massey. It approved looking into disposing of Binkley, Jerseyville, University Gardens and Briarwood. Old school buildings used for administration and continuing education still count as empty, unused space. It is also recommended a study of the vacant Ainslie Wood school be conducted to determine if it would be profitable to tear down the building and sell the land.
WHY CAN'T WE DO IT HERE ?
(from Jeff Sutton, October 23 1998)
We seemed a bit discouraged at times last night with the whole flawed process and timeline on school closures so I thought I'd share this hot news item with you to cheer people up and show what can be done with some effort!
The Hamilton Wentworth school board has told the Ministry of Education in a very clear way that the whole school closure process is flawed in terms of the approach, lack of info and, most importantly, the process is too rushed. The Board has committed to no school closures until September 2000!!. The have thrown out all of the previous criteria and are starting from scratch with much more public input.
This action was prompted by:
- support from the Mayors and elected officials
- school councils and PTA's
- community groups
- business people
- and broad, across all party, community support.
If they can do this in the Hamilton Wentworth Board (similar size and considerations as our Board) WHY CAN'T WE DO IT HERE?
Other Boards are considering telling the Ministry where to go such as Windsor, the Grand Erie Board and possibly London. Please forward this news to others - we can make a difference!
(The Coalition for Public Education was formed by Ottawa parents in 1996 in order to promote and defend a strong public education system. Please feel free to forward this newsletter. Subscribe/unsubscribe/comments via firstname.lastname@example.org)
-- Anonymous, October 24, 1998