Readers here will be familiar with this review, involving schools in Midland, Penetanguishene, Elmvale, Stayner and Collingwood. Earlier this week, SCDSB voted to postpone any further consideration on any of the recommendations from either the review committee (it recommended a status quo, have your cake and eat it too solution) or its senior staff members.
The happiness may be only temporary. Trustees can revisit the issue in the future.Trustees have tried to point their finger at the province, blaming it for not making funding available to the board for either solution. I find these statements do more to show the failure of the board's staff members and trustees to dot their i's and cross their t's on their own capital planning documents. There are other boards in the province that have managed tens of millions in capital construction projects coming out of their first round of reviews (or not even) and SCDSB's cry of poverty lets it off the hook way too easily.
(trustee Brad) Saunders said the matter may be best dealt with by the next board of trustees, which will be elected next year.
"Given our division on this issue, it's the only way to go," he said.
Trustee (Donna) Armstrong disagreed.
"Postponing indefinitely is like putting our heads in the sand," she said, adding the decision does nothing to achieve much-needed renovations at EDHS (Elmvale), which is aging and overcrowded.
In the meantime, Tony Guergis and Anita Dubeau, the mayors of Springwater Township and Penetanguishene respectively, both said the decision gives their municipalities the chance to show that they are growth communities, and that their high schools should stay open.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks last night behind closing any high schools was the lack of provincial funding to build new ones.
As to Guergis and Dubeau? Pardon the vernacular, but if it hasn't already been at several points in the past two years, now it's time for these mayors (and the others) to piss or get off the pot. Talk about what your municipalities can do and can show is cheap. Open your wallets and come to the board with genuine offers for partnership that will improve the physical spaces your community's students are learning in and meet your objectives. If this is a 'smart' moratorium on the closure of several schools as Guergis was requesting in his executive role on the Community Schools Alliance, now he's gotten one. What's he actually going to do with it?
The Examiner followed up its coverage with an editorial Friday, flawed in showing its writer(s) couldn't see past the dollars at play here.
Because the lack of provincial funding seems to be the over-riding reason why there's been, at least, a stay of execution for high schools in Elmvale, Midland, Penetanguishene, Collingwood and Stayner.
And after numerous meetings, this ARC recommended last May a five-school option to keep all five schools open -- including a replacement school in Elmvale.But school board staff instead presented a three-school solution: keeping CCI and MSS open and building a new high school in either Elmvale or Wasaga Beach.
It was this action which trustees have decided to postpone indefinitely.
This isn't necessarily a victory for those opposed to school closures. It's just a battle won, not the war.
Trustees will eventually have to make a decision on these schools, although there are already indications that it might be the next board of trustees, not this one (there are municipal elections in 2010).
The problem with school closures is that trustees seem to look at the issue with dollar signs in mind. They have a budget to meet, as deficits are forbidden.
But students and parents look at it from an emotional point of view. They don't want to lose their school. Students get displaced, relationships are affected, not only with other students, but with teachers, as well.
Again, the Examiner is simply joining the board in looking for an easy scapegoat. It does ask, later in the editorial, why there doesn't appear to be funding available. If it scratched the surface, it might be able to answer that question. Passing off trustees' inability to pull the trigger and fire off any decision in this review as due to a lack of money shirks them of the responsibility they have to all of their high school students in northwest Simcoe County. A responsibility to have those students learning in the best possible spaces in the best possible places.
The next board of trustees will be no better prepared to settle this question than this group is. However maybe, just maybe, they won't be afraid to make that decision.