From the B-memo:
Accommodation decisions can be some of the most difficult faced by school boards and they are best made at the local level with meaningful involvement of the local community.These revised guidelines would apply to any accommodation review committee trustees vote to create after Sept. 30 of this year. The memo clearly points out the revised guidelines do not apply to accommodation decisions that have already been made, or to review committees that have already begun their work-- or have presented recommendations to trustees but a vote has not yet been held.
Based on these accommodation review processes, the Ministry has received hundreds of comments directly and through the media from school boards, parents, community members and Ministry-appointed independent facilitators. We also reviewed reports from other stakeholders and the report of the Declining Enrolment Working Group, Planning and Possibilities, which recommended that the Ministry review the Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline.
As a result of the feedback, it is clear that the original Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline supports that principle by strengthening consultation and decision-making processes at school boards. The Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) process has supported improved transparency of decision-making, constructive discussions among the board and the public, meaningful community engagement, and outcomes that will benefit current and future students.
The Reference Criteria are an important tool for boards, ARCs and the public. The criteria – outlined in the Terms of Reference – are intended to improve transparency about accommodation decision-making by ensuring that ARCs and the public consider accommodation options that fit within the educational and accommodation policies of the school board. Examples of Reference Criteria are: grade configuration, programming objectives, transportation policies, and school utilization. It is up to boards to determine the level of detail they wish to include in the Reference Criteria.
Boards are expected to be transparent regarding the capital planning process in order for ARCs and the public to understand the difference between planning proposals and the capital approval process. Boards are also expected to be transparent with ARCs and the public regarding available funding, the process of applying for funding, and funding approvals, including planning approvals. Where no funding is available to support a particular accommodation option for students, boards are required to inform the ARC and propose how students would be accommodated if funding does not become available.
(Ellipses reflect there was text omitted between the quoted sections)
If a board is not commissioning any new reviews this fall, it has until March 31 to update its policies to be compliant with the revised guidelines.
The ministry calls these changes (outlined here) 'small.' I disagree. Some of these changes will, hopefully, allow boards to be much clearer in their goals for an accommodation review. It also cannot be understated how much impact the procedural change in how review committee recommendations are presented to trustees is going to have. This may eliminate the feeling in communities the committee's work was buried in an administrative report, as it will now be presented to trustees under separate cover.
I missed one change in the revised guidelines-- the business rep and municipal rep on committees are being replaced by a single 'community' representative, who can be nominated from any part of the school community.