First things first, this is a draft policy. From what I understand, it has been distributed to boards (per what's in the cover letter). The requested return date is this fall, so this policy should then come out as either a policy/program memoranda (PPM) or B-memo once it's finalized and approved.
To address a point in a comment from a previous post, this draft policy clearly is aimed at school boards (which makes sense, since the Ministry of Education has little business telling municipalities what to do). Its intention appears to be to use the distribution list in the Reg. 444/98 and tell boards that when, through the capital plans they would be required to complete (per declining enrolment group and other recommendations), they identify surplus space, they look to public-sector partners to see if there's an opportunity to fill that space.
It doesn't replace community use of schools, which is primarily aimed at ensuring school spaces used during class time are made available for community use outside regular class hours. This is an attempt to add a few more tools to the box (or perhaps encourage boards to be more aware of the tools already in there) for boards as they deal with unused space.
From the draft:
Boards are to create a list of space that is suitable for community facility partnership and a list of potential co-building opportunities based on their facility partnership policies (see below). This is the information that will be provided to potential partners through Ontario Regulation 444/98 and through the new notification process outlined below.However, I think the key part of the draft policy for many boards will be this:
The Ministry encourages the sharing of facilities and co-building, between co-terminous school boards where boards are able to better utilize existing space and protect the integrity of their programs. Regarding new construction, boards typically work together on a case-by-case basis, sometimes facilitated by the Ministry. The memo assumes that board-to-board facility sharing remains a priority for our school boards, since school facilities are best suited for use by students.
Boards are expected to hold a community meeting at least once a year to discuss potential facility partnership opportunities with the community and to listen to what needs or plans community partners may have. Boards are expected to notify the entities on their notification list and the general public about the meetings. Boards that cover a large geography may want to consider holding meetings in more than one community. The Ministry recognizes that this process will be most effective when community partners notify boards in a timely manner when they are looking for space or considering new construction.
School boards will be expected to remove the capacity of space occupied by community partners from their on-the-ground capacity (my bold emphasis). The Ministry expects that rent or fees will cover the operations and capital cost of using the space borne by the board, net of available top-up funding. In co-building, partners will be required to pay for their share of construction.I would guess in areas where there isn't much sharing and co-operation between boards and other publicly funded groups, this has been a frequent reason why. However, by allowing that surplus space used by another organization to be removed from the board's on-the-ground capacity, and indicating any lease agreement cover the utilities and maintenance costs, the financial risk disappears.
Where there are additional costs to perform minor renovations to protect student safety, provide appropriate washrooms, and otherwise make the space suitable for use by facility partners, the Ministry expects that cost to be borne by the partners.
It'll be interesting to see how this draft changes between now and when its finalized version is published.