Thursday, October 1, 2009

ARCing in my own backyard

It's not my custom to post about my own reporting here on a regular basis, but given the track record here on accommodation reviews and how committee members and others approach the task, I feel it's appropriate. Mostly because it's the first review I've covered where the committee voted (in a 5-4 split) to close a school.
Other commitments have kept me from being at every one of this Thames Valley District School Board committee's meetings, but between myself and my newsroom colleagues we have covered every one to-date and will continue doing so until after the trustee decision— expected some time early next calendar year. However, from the first meeting I covered I was instantly aware this committee was perhaps better prepared to accept closure as an unpalatable compromise to improve the learning conditions for all the students attending the four schools represented. When Woodstock Coun. Ross Gerrie — attempting to put forward a "keep the school open, but if you do decide to close" series of recommendations — said he didn't think anyone on the committee would support a closure of Hillcrest Public School, some of the parents said his assumption was wrong.
I used the strongest quote in the story.
"It's going to happen, let's just admit it and say, 'close the school' and this way all other (schools) benefit," Springbank 'holding zone' representative Belinda Montague said. "If we say don't close (Hillcrest), then the message is that everything in all the other schools is OK just to leave it as is."
The committee, thorough in ensuring it wasn't simply backing Hillcrest into a corner, also polled the principals of the four schools, whose quotes didn't make the newspaper article.
"The upgraded gymnasium is probably the most important thing (in proposed upgrades)," said Springbank Public School principal Iggy Ferrara. "The upgraded library and general arts rooms, again, we were built as a JK-5 school and we can't offer instrumental music and we need the specialized room.
"This will help is to have enhanced places to deliver our arts program. They're wonderful and it really will enhance the school."
D.M. Sutherland Public School principal Susan Davis acknowledged it was early still, given practice is to strike a design committee to finalize the what's and where of the new components.
"We would always like more than we have, but what would be coming our way is an absolute treat," Davis said.
The committee spent substantial time ensuring its recommendations covered all the bases to ensure the three remaining schools would have the best learning environment possible for the funding that might be available from ministry and board funds. Let's see how its public input night unfolds at the end of the month and whether the committee changes any of its recommendations before finalizing its report and sending it off to trustees.


Anonymous said...

ER - the link to "my own reporting" isn't working.

Have you or the boards which you cover been able to estimate the cost of the accommodation reviews? My assumption is that the lengthy process doesn't come cheap.