School closing process to change
The province is changing the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines (PARG). Even though some of the changes are connected to the province’s new rural strategy, the changes will affect all school boards across the province.
The Ministry of Education has released a new draft of the guidelines and will accept feedback on this draft until March 23rd, 2018. The final guidelines will be released later in the spring, at which time school boards must revise their existing policies.
Longer process, more options required
Among the major changes to the current process:
- Boards will have to use Ministry-approved templates for staff reports (the templates are under development)
- The initial staff report from the board must contain at least three options (previously it was just one): a recommended option, an alternative option and a status quo option.
- Reports must include detailed information about:
- Impact on student programming (e.g. multi-grade classrooms, speciality programs)
- Impact on student well-being (indicators could include things like impact on extra-curricular activities and busing, school climate surveys)
- Impact on school board resources (effect on budget, school capacity, facility conditions etc.)
- Impact on the local community, including the economic impact if at least one of the schools has half of its population from a community of less than 10,000
- There must be at least 3 public meetings (up from 2), and there must be a minimum of 60 business days between the first and final public meetings. If the board introduces a new school closure during the process, then one more public meeting must be added.
- For accommodation reviews involving one or more secondary schools, the final report must include feedback from secondary school students.
- School boards must invite municipalities that will be affected to be part of the process. Invitations must be sent to the elected Mayor, Chair, Warden or equivalent, along with the Chief Administrative Officer, City Manager or equivalent.
Moratorium on school closings must continue until boards implement new guidelines
School boards will not be allowed to start new Accommodation Review processes until they have communicated the new process to their communities and trustees have approved the process as new board policy.
The draft process and the feedback from the consultations is available on the Ministry website: http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/policyfunding/reviewGuide.html