Meeting Notes - December 12, 2017

The last meeting of 2017 is already upon us! The biggest item on the agenda tonight was the Long Term Accommodation Plan. This report began in 2016 as a result of trustees requesting a study of our system-wide priorities rather than proceeding into an accommodation review in the core schools. It will be updated annually as it provides transparency and valuable decision-making information by outlining the needs and programming of every school in the GECDSB system. 

While GECDSB has made some significant progress in reducing the number of empty of student spaces as well as chipping away at our 5-year renewal needs (now at $162mill), there are still some areas needing attention. In particular, pages 129-146 outline our very popular French Immersion programming. Every school offering single- or dual-track FI is profiled, including the numbers of students from each home school.

Bellewood (p.132) and Giles (p.133) stand out as single-track FI schools. It is instructive to compare the number of students not attending their home schools in order to attend FI schools and to examine the impact on the capacity of each school. Central, for example, is currently at 52% capacity, however, 222 students that would go there are attending Bellewood, which is well over-capacity with about 10 portables. We also see that the west end currently has no FI offerings. Administration has correctly asserted that the status quo is not an option.

In order to start to understand what our options are, I asked whether there were any benchmarks about the amount of 5-year renewal funding a board can sustain or be allowed to have, for example, whether it could not be more than a certain percentage of our budget. Administration advised that no legislation or benchmark exists and that $0 is not a realistic goal. I also asked whether, as an English school board, we could not exceed a certain percentage of students in FI programming. Again, administration advised no. Trustee Kilpatrick asked if there was a certain percentage of allowable empty student spaces. The answer was, again, there is no specific requirement, but fewer empty spaces is better. 

Some reconfiguration of FI is obviously needed and trustees and administration will be meeting in the new year to discuss steps forward. The provincial government currently has a moratorium on accommodation reviews and school closures which brings some welcome constraints to our planning. It will challenge us to formulate a plan without these as considerations. 

Administration also explained that there are a couple of partnerships in the works which would enable us to use the retrofitting funding I talked about earlier this year and reduce the number of empty student spaces. Although we are not discussing them publicly yet as contracts are involved, I did bring two partners forward to administration in the summer. They would both provide opportunities and support for our students. I am very pleased that one of them should be finalized very soon. An announcement would be expected shortly after. 

We will have some big decisions to make in 2018 and I look forward to hearing from you. In the mean time, I will be attending holiday celebrations at Southwood Public School and Westview Freedom Academy. I wish you all a happy and restful holiday season!




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Jessica Sartori