“In June 2017, nearly six years ago, the Government of Ontario announced a moratorium on Pupil Accommodation Reviews – the community engagement process used by school boards when considering consolidating or closing a school.
School closure decisions are often among the most challenging for school boards. Despite these challenges, school board trustees always focus on the educational needs of all of their students as well as the prudent distribution of resources to meet those needs. We recognize that school closures can be difficult and emotional for students, families, and staff, however they are often necessary to ensure the academic success of students and the long-term financial stability of the school district while responding to natural shifts in demographics over time.
School boards have traditionally consolidated or closed schools to ensure that students are receiving the best possible educational options and opportunities. By bringing students together through a school consolidation, school boards are often able to offer a better educational experience. Some of the potential improvements may include:
- Increased access to more robust program options and greater availability of specialized support services.
- Modernized, energy efficient buildings that are well-maintained and include facilities to meet diverse student needs such as gyms, libraries, technological education, arts/music and STEM programming.
- Enrolment levels that support a vibrant co-curricular program.
- Accessibility features with respect to entry, movement within the facility and outdoor play space.
During the moratorium, school boards have been delicately balancing the upkeep of aging infrastructure, shifting enrolment, and financial pressures while doing their best to deliver quality programming in their schools. The current situation has created unsustainable funding deficits, as it costs the same to clean, heat, maintain and keep the lights on in a school whether it is half empty or full.
That is why OPSBA and our member boards have consistently called for the Ministry of Education to complete its review of the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines, release revised guidelines, and lift the moratorium. We have made our position clear through letters, pre-budget submissions, and in-person meetings.
Minister Lecce should be commended for his commitment to innovation, and to addressing many of the challenges that slow down the process and increase the costs of building schools in Ontario. With that said, as the Ontario Legislature returns this week, OPSBA is calling on the minister to release revised Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines as soon as possible, and at minimum – by the end of the current school year. This timeline will help ensure that boards are best able to align the new process with their annual planning cycles.
We appreciate this is a complex issue, but after nearly six years our students and their families shouldn’t have to wait any longer for their schools to be built, repaired, and renewed. We look forward to the impending release of the Grants for Student Needs and new Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines and stand ready to work together with the government to address this important issue.”
– Cathy Abraham, OPSBA President