Meeting Notes - January 15, 2019

Happy New Year! Trustees received the Long-Term Accommodation Plan (LTAP) tonight which administration puts together annually.

This report first came as a request from trustees in 2016 as a result of a recommendation by administration to conduct an Accommodation Review for the core schools. Personally, I was not comfortable with conducting a review of the viability and sustainability of schools in the core at that time because we already knew of an immigration influx which would likely impact registration of new students in the core. As well, the City of Windsor had begun a Community Improvement Plan to revitalize the downtown area. I felt that closing schools in the core would be premature and ran the risk of undoing what the City was working on.

It is important to understand that just because we undertake an Accommodation Review, it does not necessarily mean that schools will close. And, just because we close schools does not mean a community is severely impacted. In fact, last year, parents were rather supportive of a decision to close, combine, and rebuild schools in Forest Glade so that they were no longer open-concept in design. However, even considering closing schools can affect confidence in people already in the area or considering moving into it, which may negatively impact registration and the viability of the neighbourhood. For an area like the core that was so vulnerable but promising at the time, I felt that the optics of potentially closing schools was a good reason not to do an Accommodation review.

For all of these reasons, I moved for a Long-Term Accommodation Plan to look at the whole system. We decided to take a different approach and look at the board as a whole to determine whether there were any opportunities for new programming as well as to seek new builds. Indeed, the Forest Glade example above was a result of what trustees saw with the first LTAP, and Leamington now has French Immersion because we saw a lack of FI programming in that area. In addition, we created FI at Central because Bellewood was over-capacity and Central was under-capacity.

The current LTAP shows that some schools that were seen to be at risk a few years ago such as Queen Victoria, are now near capacity. Others are over-capacity such as Massey, West Gate, and Northwood. The government has had a moratorium on Accommodation Reviews for some time. An Accommodation Review is required to consider school closures. However, boundary adjustments do not need such a review. It is likely that because some schools are now running the risk of violating codes due to exceeding capacity, we will need to do some boundary adjustments. These are often difficult as well, and my view is that these should happen prior to Kindergarten registration, so parents know what to expect.

The LTAP continues to show the impact of FI. If students do not have FI in their home school, they may attend a school that does have FI. FI is very popular, but unfortunately it does mean that some schools lose a substantial amount of area students to FI schools. Bellewood has 372 students from the Glenwood area and Glenwood is under-capacity. FI has been created at the neighbouring Central PS, so it may not be feasible to create yet more FI in the same area to relieve the over- and under-capacity at Bellewood and Glenwood, respectively. However, it seems likely that something will need to be done sooner rather than later.

Note that capacity is not the only factor in considering the viability of a school. The condition and cost of repairs must also be considered. Unfortunately, the Ford government has cancelled one of the repair funds, the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund. School boards across the province were impacted to a tune of $100m. 

The next meeting is on February 5. This will be for the Standing Committees of Education and Operations & Finance. All are welcome.

Jessica

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Jessica Sartori