BROCKVILLE – A vice president of the Upper Canada District School Board suggests new provincial rules on the future of schools led them to the releasing of recommendations on school closures.
The 188 page Building for the Future report, released on Monday, created a firestorm on social media with upset parents and teachers.
The report recommends the closure of 16 schools by the end of June 2017 and the possibility of closing another 13 schools under the right conditions and funding.
David McDonald told Newswatch they are following a process laid out by the province – the big difference between now and Boundary 2020 in 2008 is recommendations have to be laid out first.
“The legislation says we have to put the recommendations up front and when we did it several years ago we used to go out and say…we want to talk about this…and the recommendations came at the end, and it created some problems for communities as well,” McDonald said.
“It’s a long process and it will end sometime in March…so it’s not a ‘fait accompli’ on Wednesday night,” he said.
McDonald told Newswatch he heard from some parents on Tuesday, shortly after the report went public.
The trustee said there is constant pressure from the province through the form of reduced funding.
“We are under the pressure on a constant basis with our schools and when there’s excess capacity and we need to pay attention to that and understand there’s things we need to do. If we choose to keep them (schools) open we need to find way to fund it properly because some of the funding will be reduced,” he said.
McDonald believes there’s added pressure, not just from fewer people having kids, but more choice in the form of French and Catholic schools that weren’t available 50 and 60 years ago.
“There’s more choice for parents and I think that’s fine but with that many choices we can’t have that many schools in some places,” he said.
He said consolidation may even bring better use of resources by the board.
As for rolling out the plan, McDonald said trustees got the plan on the weekend and they “didn’t now the breadth of it. If we had hindsight to say could we have done something better about informing staff. Perhaps, I will advocate that as a lesson learned. It has to be shared at some point.”
There were reports that several schools held emergency staff meetings Tuesday morning after the recommendations went public.
The board meets at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Wednesday).