Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Could Peterborough break the mold?

Doubtful. Very doubtful on this one, despite a strong connection to the City of Peterborough and its collegiate and vocational institute.
For those who haven't met it, PCVS is the city's historic high school Built turn of the century ish, like many other schools across Ontario that have the CVS or CI to their names. In the heart of the city, surrounded by heritage buildings of a similar ilk. Home to a Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB specialty arts program that accepts students from the PCVS attendance area and from across the district after an entrance exam/evaluation of sorts. There is (or was) a school like PCVS in every city and larger town like Peterborough in this province.
Through my former camping career, I've had the honour of getting to know a few Peterborough families, most of whose children either attended or currently attend PCVS.
The school -- along with three others in the city -- was involved in a closure review. The numerical reality of life is that there aren't enough school aged students in Peterborough to support full programming, etc., at four schools. While the early bets, and committee report, suggested another school would close when it came time for trustees to vote they voted to close PCVS.
So the campaign -- not really in high gear during the accommodation review because, c'mon, who would close PCVS, after all -- has begun.
These clips are from the Examiner, although I'm sure Peterborough This Week's coverage has been similar.
First, allow me my usual bristling at the continued misuse of terminology. It's not an appeal. It's a petition to review the process that was used (under which the decision of the school board cannot be reversed). Appeal implies the possibility of a change in the result and the ministry's petitioning process doesn't allow for that.
In that sense, Coun. Riel was absolutely correct in earlier coverage linked above when he says it's all hot air for council to support or not support the petition since it won't change the result. I was also intrigued by his comments to council on what students are saying about the PCVS decision on social media.
Interesting also as he was the councillor on the accommodation review committee that looked at the four high schools and recommended (under a shotgun process he called flawed) closing one high school but not making any recommendation to trustees on which one should close. I have no doubts in my skeptical mind that if the board had chosen to close the high school in his ward instead of PCVS that Riel would be one of the ones leading the parade.
Anyway, regardless of all that.
Anyone drawn to this post involved in the PCVS campaign, please hit accommodation reviews in the labels box on the left and spend some time reading coverage of other reviews, other petitions to the ministry. Not one petition to the minister (or even judicial review) to review the process used for a school closure under the province's pupil accommodation review guidelines has resulted in overturning a school board's original decision. Not one.
Spend some time in particular looking at what happened in Niagara-on-the-Lake and that town's futile efforts after a District School Board of Niagara decision to close Niagara District Secondary School.
Peterborough is now treading down a road that many, many other communities have already tread. I know, maybe you weren't really paying attention at the time because it wasn't in your backyard yet. Well, now it's been in your backyard and there might be an opportunity to realize what lies ahead.
I don't think anything the save PCVS crew does will change this decision of the school board. Despite there being a new minister, etc. etc., the process won't change for the time being.
As I mentioned in an earlier comment on the last post, I would urge some contemplation of where energies are best allocated (somewhat tying into what Riel had to say). The programs and people are what makes a school like PCVS tick. What gives it is substance. The bricks and mortar can add character, but without the people and programs they don't do it alone.
So what are you going to fight to the end of days for? To keep the programs alive, healthy, sustainable and fully funded and enrolled? Or to save the building?
You can yell and scream that the process is flawed, but it's the process that exists and it can, rarely, net recommendations that school boards can support in their entirety. Just imagine, under a different government, under previous guidelines, whether the decision would have been as consultative and whether the end result would have been the same.


Banderblogger said...

Let me start by adding an additional "very" between your "Very" and "doubtful". I agree with you 100% on this one.

I do have to take issue with you comment that the save PCVS campaign was "not really in high gear during the accommodation review because, c'mon, who would close PCVS, after all"

This is incorrect. Of all four schools being reviewed, PCVS was the only one that really had any substantial campaign. It was spirited and engaged a wide variety of citizenry, especially the downtown merchants. What happened was, in the Spring, when the board's committee reported their advisement to close Thomas A Stewart (TAS), then the PCVS campaign wound down. [Some even claim that this was part of a conspiracy to slow down the PCVS PR machine so that when the final decision was made in the Fall, that they would have lost their momentum].

And PCVS has some powerful allies; take a look at their list of notable alumni on their Wikipedia page. But nothing is going to reverse the decision.

Here is an interesting tidbit, though. About 10 years ago TAS was closed for a semester when asbestos was disturbed during a renovation. During the summer when it looked like TAS would be closed, the board flirted with the idea of moving the school board offices to the site (which is beautiful with sprawling fields leading to the Otonabee River). But then they realized that this would not be possible due to the asbestos problem.

However, they have no problem sending PCVS' Arts program students to TAS. It's not okay for the board employees, but for students it's okay.

It reminds me of the rule for tech shops in secondary schools. Students don't need to wear steel toed boots, but teachers do . . . health and safety y'know.

Education Reporter said...


Here's a thought on your TASSS info: If the board were to close TASSS and then repurpose it for administrative use, the funding available for that would likely not come as a capital grant from the province. The KPRDSB would have to find those dollars within its own existing renewal and maintenance dollars.

With the decision to close PCVS and move the arts program to TASSS, there will most likely be provincial capital dollars used (or at least sought by listing it as a leading capital priority) to renovate the necessary spaces. the province has shown itself more likely to dole out the dough in consolidation situations that include improving the learning environment at destination schools. Which means, as a result of renos, that asbestos removal would likely be included for the whole school. My guess given the age of PCVS is that it too has some asbestos tucked away in a non-problematic way as it remains undisturbed.

So if the decision ends up taking two schools out of the inventory of buildings where there is asbestos, that's a safer learning environment for a greater number of students than is currently the case.

Of course, the caveat to all this is for the transition committee and any renovation/design committee to INSIST that all asbestos be removed from TASSS as part of renos to accommodate new students and programs.


banderblogger said...

Hugo, the last time they tried to remove asbestos at TAS, the school was actually closed down for an entire semester. Kenner had to accommodate them by splitting the timetable into an early and late day. It was chaos. And this was only to clean up an accidental exposure to the material.

There will be no major renovation of TAS to accommodate the Arts program that is moving there. PCVS was built long before asbestos became a major insulation component in Canada, subsequently there were no problems renovating rooms as the Arts program grew there.

I'm not saying that PCVS shouldn't be closed, I don't think they are going to shut down TAS in order to renovate it.

Education Reporter said...


Thanks for the info. My point is they *could* reno. If the board is convinced to do so...

Hugo :)

Jason said...

I realize I am a little late to the discussion here, but I was wondering what happens when Peterborough grows and there is a need for another high school. Is there a chance PCVS could re-open or would they look at building a new school somewhere?

I haven't seen anyone bring up this possibility yet and was curious as to what would happen.


Education Reporter said...


Interesting question. Particularly since, as I understand it, the facility wasn't closed and the board is still running programs from there, just not a regular high school.

If the KPR board had the demographics right (which I haven't heard it didn't, other than by opponents over-estimating school-age growth in Ptbo), there will be room to accommodate population growth. Don't have the most recent stats myself, but would expect the tiny increases being seen in the primary grades now have been accounted for, even though those kids don't hit high school for another eight to 10 years and they will need different things from their schools than what is needed today.