Tuesday, November 22, 2011

It never happened unless it happens to me

My heartstrings are being pulled by the rallying that is currently building and taking place in Peterborough. I've long held a soft spot for this city on the Otonabee, where I lived for just over eight months a decade ago.
The city, particularly those interested in its downtown Peterborough Collegiate and Vocational School, is in the midst of a post-vote, pull-out-all-the-stops campaign to try and get an unpopular decision to close PCVS reversed.
There are petitions afoot, to be presented Dec. 5 when a group from the community travels to Queen's Park.
In the meantime, the Kawartha Pine Ridge DSB carries on implementing the decision of its trustees, with the scheduling of the program for future years underway. With the ever-annoying-to-me practice of calling a review an appeal... which it's not, since it cannot reverse the decision of trustees. Only trustees could choose to do that if they wished.
Together, they show the hopes being placed behind a process that won't likely result in any reversal of the decision by a power outside the board of trustees. They also show how life goes on for the programs involved in this review while those who fight to save a building carry on their track.
This weekend, I received an email from the local committee. It's not really meant for me since I'm not reporting in the KPR district, but it's a message the communications section of the local group is sending out to media throughout the district. It was shared with me by someone who tripped across this space and has started reading past posts on accommodation reviews. I've posted it to GoogleDocs (edited to remove personal email address and names) and it's embedded below.

I find this approach interesting. I did reply, indicating that despite how nice it is to be recognized for my expertise, the save-PCVSers may not end up finding me to be their best ally. Working in the biz, I also doubted they'd get any new attention with this appeal, given the realities of chain ownership and what local papers outside of Peterborough would be focusing on for their coverage.
Despite the "we're all in this together" and "you could learn from what we're going through" sentiment, practice has shown time and again that no, you're not in it together and unfortunately, you're not learning from others' prior experience until you find yourselves in the hotseat.
Regular readers here will know what other communities across this province have been through in their valiant efforts to reverse a school board's decision. None has, to date, been successful.
Of interest, I did a cursory search of the KPRDSB website for previous accommodation reviews-- 'cause hey, if we're all in this together we should have been together all along, right?
In a few minutes I was able to find documents relating to a prohibitive-to-repair closure review dating back to 2007 for Castleton and South Cramahe schools, the launch of a review for Newtonville PS and the re-activation of a review for Young's Point PS. It leaves me to wonder whether anyone in Peterborough was paying attention when those reviews happened and was as concerned about those school closures.
Likely not.
I do wish it was different. Particularly as a reporter who's covered several rounds of school-closure reviews within the same larger community. Watching (usually metaphorically hitting my head against the wall) as the next community repeated all the same steps as the one before it, because it hadn't paid any attention to the preceding reviews since they didn't come home to roost in one's own backyard.
With declining enrolment slowing or edging towards rebounding enrolment and the ever-aging condition of schools built for baby boomers, the prospect of a school-closure review is an ever-present reality for much of this province. Municipalities need to recognize this too-- think about the fate of your existing schools as you choose to build greenfield neighbourhoods instead of infilling and intensifying existing ones. Don't wait until your school is struck to learn the basics of how this process should work or what other communities have already tried.


Anonymous said...

don't forget, these people trying to save their school aren't saying that no school should close, just a different one. why is one school better than another? Some of those fighting for PCVS are essentially saying the other schools in the city aren't as good as they are. There is a lot of anger in town over this.