Thursday, June 18, 2009

Community recommendation backed by ministry

The folks in north Huron may be dancing in the halls this week as Ontario backed an application that would fund a modified version of the the North Maitland Educational Centre of Excellence proposed during an Avon Maitland District School Board accommodation review earlier this year.
The money received for 'local priorities' is enough to build the large, rural school parents in these communities had been advocating for, though board staff members are still recommending the school be K-6, with Grade 7/8 students attending a newly reorganized 7-12 school in Wingham. The battle to get the K-8 school recommended continues.
Most importantly, it is contingent on the board tackling the ongoing (and only predicted to get worse) problem of empty student spaces in its buildings. She says that’s why, in spite of strong public opposition to relocating Grades 7 and 8s into a secondary-school setting, staff will recommend the construction of a new K-6 school. As in the previous recommendation, Grades 7 and 8s would attend F.E. Madill.
She also confirmed the new recommendation will be for a single building, intended to replace all four above-named elementary schools.
“We made an application for 515 students,” Baird-Jackson explained. “So far, I haven’t seen any confirmation from the Ministry. All we have is (MPP Mitchell’s) announcement. But I think there’s an understanding that you have to build at a certain size to be able to provide all the things people want to see for their children’s education.”
While there are still important decisions to be made, this shows that when communities ditch the status-quo or 'consensus' recommendations in their accommodation review recommendations to trustees, they can get a positive response and dollars to support those recommendations.
Plus, they provide trustees with options they can stand behind in a way that serves the facility needs of today's students, the fiscal realities of programs and aging buildings and isn't in opposition to the community's recommendations. Examples of the lack of success of a status-quo or consensus report abound, but here's one that was to come to a head this week in Midhurst.