Wednesday, February 17, 2010

K-12ing in eastern Ontario

Always on the lookout when new school-closure review articles are posted, and this one caught the eye last week as the Limestone District School Board comes to a close on a review of its northern regions. The Whig covered the latest developments, in an article also picked up by a few other Sun Media / QMI Agency papers in the region.
What was different here? Well, for one, I enjoy it when board staff members can state rationale in simple, accessible language instead of edu-speak or hiding behind catchall reasons.
The consolidation of the Sharbot Lake family of schools, as it is known, would be the third done by the board as it shuts aging and small schools and melds student bodies into larger schools for economies of scale and reduced operating costs.
Napanee and east Kingston are already moving down that path and the northern part of the board, home to some of the oldest and most expensive to operate schools in the board, was seen as the logical next step.
"Some of these schools are more than 50 years old and they are increasingly expensive to keep up," said superintendent Roger Richard yesterday.
"Frankly in this age of green schools, these buildings are prohibitively expensive to repair and maintain, so we would like to consolidate them in a new facility." 
The proposed solution recommended by the review is to consolidate five elementary and secondary schools built between 1947 and 1971 into one K-12 school with a population about 500 to 700 students. Senior staff diverged from this slightly, recommending closure and consolidation of four schools instead of five after an analysis of busing times for one of the elementary schools included in the review. The following sentences speak to the intent of the declining enrolment working group's recommendation that boards need to do a better job of explaining why they strike reviews and recommend consolidation.
In a perfect world, there would be sufficient funding available to maintain all of Ontario’s rural schools. However, inadequate school sites, aging buildings which are cost prohibitive to repair, small rural student populations, current government regulations and standards, as well as limited financial resources render this option unrealistic. Accordingly, Senior Staff must be cognizant of what is in the best long term interests of all the Limestone District School Board’s students. This requires us to maintain our focus on how to best provide that which is most important: safe, sustainable learning environments and high quality experiences for our children, now and in the future, while remaining pragmatic in balancing fiscal responsibility and community interests.
I also noted with interest the strong language in the report for seeking partnerships with the local Catholic board and the area's municipalities to get even more extensive value for the pending investment.
The public input session before the entire board of trustees is scheduled for March 2.


HBO said...


Do you happen to know of any article or study of towns that have lost their schools and the affects that the school closing has had on the town?

I go back and forth on school closings. I worry that a once vibrant community (probably my home town soon) will wither away when the school closes and young families avoid these communities or move away, but I don't think going back to a one room school house is the answer either.

How have the catholic/public partnerships worked in the past - successful?

Anonymous said...

You raise a good point on the clarity of the reporting here ER.

I read the whole article covering this review and quite enjoyed the read.

I have no problems of how a school is configured. If it's done with a supportive community in tow I do know of closures that have worked out to be very positive for the students and families involved.

It all depends how the review if framed I think.

If a board approaches the reviews as a doom and gloom scenario the media picks up on that.

If a board looks at reviews in a more positive way it encourages folks to see things that way too.

I especially like it when this happened before we needed to "guidelines" to conduct reviews.

HBO - with fewer and fewer children all around(except for a few boards) and less and less money boards will have to move to share facilities.

Smart boards have been doing so for some time. Others...not so much.

Education Reporter said...

Anon 17 Feb. 14:11
I'm not aware of any studies that have been completed on the longer-term impact of school closures on the communities that hosted them.

It's a very tricky analysis filled with caveats for a rural community. Schools are not often the first community support to depart a rural settlement. Private-sector businesses and other public-sector services can and often do precede a school departure, which only aggravates the concern within the community when a school is selected as part of a review.

Also, you need to consider who chooses to live in rural communities, and what their birth and fertility rates are. As rural populations become an ever-smaller proportion of our overall population (Read: increasing urbanization of our population), the will to continue to invest significant capital for the benefit of a shrinking proportion of the population would get more and more difficult to support. In the same breath, would it be fair to condemn those students to early and mid-20th century school facilities when their urban peers have the latest and greatest?

A long way of answering your question, but I would be interested in seeing such a study myself if one were to be properly conducted.


James said...

Nice Post !

Thanks for the resource link. I found more information from resource link. I'm collecting this type of information for my personal collection.


James - Student of Toronto college

Anonymous said...

The Avon Maitland DSB did a study on this a few years ago. Specifically how closure affects students but I believe the study touched on the community as well.


Education Reporter said...


Coincidental that the AMDSB was one of the first boards I thought of-- the high school closure in Seaforth and its conversion to an elementary school.

This would be a very lengthy study if it were to be done properly. The researcher(s) would need to try and isolate a school closure's impact from everything else that contributes to the real/perceived decline of rural Canada. That's not an easy task, and anyone making the link between school closures and the decline of a rural settlement would have to have a lot of backup info to prove it.


Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly the AMDSB report was commissioned and looked at the effects of school closure on students, families, teachers, and I'm pretty sure it touched on communities too.

It was done after the closures and moving 7 & 8s into high-schools in Stratford.

When I covered the Goderich Accommodation Reviews I had a copy that was given to me at an ARC meeting.

There was also a provincial study done on the impact of school closures, fixing the funding formula and developing a rural education strategy by Dr.James Downey.

By the way....Mended has been hijacked..sad what's going on over there, but it's pretty much diverted attention away from the politics of Bluewater DSB - don't know if that's a good thing or not.


HBO said...

There are certainly more opportunities for the students if the schools are larger and more centralized.

It's just bad news for a community when they lose a school, but the trend is less kids, more urbanization.

I heard some planning expert on CBC radio state that farming would be more efficient if all people moved to the city and huge farms were run by huge corporations. That's something to look forward to.

re: mend ed - it was a nice change of pace for the first 120 comments or so.

Anonymous said...

don't even bother visiting the mended blog. Some OSSTF guy's using it for his own entertainment.

very glad that ER started posting again. Mended's turning into a one-person three-ring circus.

Education Reporter said...

My ability to keep posting here regularly is dependent on what my paying schedule looks like. My employer is OK with letting me do this "in the open" but I don't often get the time to post from work.

That would be a dream, some day.