Minimum of 611 Ontario schools set to close as cash-strapped province pursues consolidation push: study

Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

ONTARIO — More than 600 Ontario schools are threatened with closure this year and in the coming few years, says the Ontario Alliance Against School Closures (OAASC).

All of the affected institutions are at or under the Ministry of Education’s 65 percent utilization benchmark, according to the lobby group that’s calling for a moratorium on such closures after its recent study to determine the number of doomed schools across the province.

“Our study examined documents readily available on board websites,” said OAASC spokesperson Susan MacKenzie in a press release from the organization. “Based on available public information from thirty Ontario school boards, a minimum of 611 schools are threatened with closure. In addition, there are 42 school boards that have not made their Long-Term Accommodation Plans readily available to the public, which means that the true number of schools facing closure is really much higher. It is important to know what is planned in all of the school boards in Ontario and which schools will be on the chopping block.”

MacKenzie asserts that 2016-17’s 300 closures represent a five-fold increase over the prior half decade.

The OAASC takes aim at the province’s cutting of “top-up” funding for existing schools while giving school boards money to plan the construction of new or expanded consolidated schools, to the tune of $33.2-million. “This represents millions of dollars taken away from top-up funding and instead being diverted into closures,” MacKenzie contends.

The OAASC maintains that the 2015 rewriting of the Pupil Accommodation Review guideline signalled the ministry’s intent to speed up the closure process — “without municipal and community interference. ”

“Just last week, four boards voted to close 18 schools,” MacKenzie stated. “With the situation becoming increasingly urgent; we call on the government to declare an immediate moratorium on school closures.”

The Sarnia resident and Judy Keeling of Owen Sound — co-founders of the OAASC — are set to travel to Queen’s Park April 5 to meet with Education Minister Mitzie Hunter.

The OAASC has forged close links with a number of local school supporters who mobilized after the Upper Canada District School Board’s plan to shutter — initially — 29 schools, since winnowed down to 12. Rothwell-Osnabruck School’s secondary section in Ingleside continues to fight after finding itself among the doomed dozen following a board vote on March 23.

See the organization’s full report.



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