By Angelica Ingram
A letter circulating to area councils from the Trillium Lakelands District School Board has some politicians worried about the future of local schools.
During the past month TLDSB has been sending out a draft pupil accommodation policy and procedure document for councillors to review as per guidelines set out by the Ministry of Education.
As stated in the letter from Bob Kaye CFO and superintendent of business for TLDSB “the new pupil accommodation review procedure will provide for consultation with our community partners to gather and share information and identify any interests from the community partners prior to an accommodation review.”
Earlier this year The Echo reported that schools across TLDSB were seeing a decline in enrolment numbers particularly among secondary schools.
At a Jan. 27 TLDSB board meeting it was reported the board was expecting to see a three per cent decline in elementary school populations and a 5.4 per cent decline amongst secondary schools.
Area schools are all under capacity according to board standards with the exception of Stuart Baker Elementary School.
According to the draft policy its purpose is to provide a framework of minimum standards for school boards to undertake pupil accommodation reviews to determine the future of a school or group of schools.
“This guideline ensures that where a decision is taken by a school board regarding the future of a school that decision is made with the involvement of an informed local community and is based on a broad range of criteria regarding the quality of the learning experience for students” states the draft.
According to Catherine Shedden TLDSB spokesperson policies and procedures come up for review every five years.
“If applicable we will request feedback from our community partners” she said.
“In the case of the Pupil Accommodation Review Policy and Procedure there are now Ministry of Education guidelines that state that we must offer the opportunity for feedback to our policy from the municipalities within our district.”
Shedden said there are no accommodation reviews scheduled for the board at the moment however TLDSB does review the use of every facility on a yearly basis.
“There will be a facility capacity report coming to the board in the new year which may or may not result in schools within TLDSB being considered for consolidation reorganization or closure. The Ministry of Education has directed school boards to take steps to mitigate costs of under-utilized space. So far in TLDSB this has resulted in closing unused classrooms to reduce costs.”
Highlands East councillors raised concerns with the draft policy at their Nov. 9 meeting of council passing a resolution requesting that lower tier municipalities have input into decision-making on their local schools’ possible closures in all scenarios.
In 2009 a program and accommodation review committee decided to keep both the Cardiff and Wilberforce elementary schools open recommending that Cardiff ES host children from JK to Grade 3 and Wilberforce ES have students from Grade 4 to 8.
The recommendation was adopted and remains in effect to this day.