Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Motion to Review School Closure

Last night I put forward the following notice of motion. It will be debated and trustees will cast their votes on January 15. (Debate was postponed to allow the return of Trustee Esslinger and Superintendent Schmidt who will both be in China during the December public board meeting.)

I encourage you to post comments here about my motion to save my email inbox from being over-run. Please start by stating whether you would vote for or against this motion. I would like to encourage full dialogue and don't want to edit the comments, so please be respectful and considerate. If you would like to express comments privately, feel free to contact my by email. ( Thanks!

"Move that the Board establish an Ad Hoc committee of the Board to review the school closure process and impose a one year moratorium on the closure of any district school until this review is complete and has been duly considered by the Board.

The scope of the committee's review shall include, but not be limited to:
-broad base consultation with the public to determine their support for school closure
-evaluating the full impact of school closures on community
-evaluating EPSB policies to ensure equity in the promotion of all district schools
-evaluating EPSB policies regarding capping school sizes to facilitate a more even distribution of students
-transparently identifying the actual savings of closing a school
-assessing current research on the value of a small school vs. big school education
-reconsidering the timelines in the current Sustainability Review Process to allow schools sufficient time to implement ideas before initiating the school closure process
-exploring expanded intergovernmental and interagency partnerships to support schools with declining enrolment

and most importantly:
- fully explore options other than school closure to respond to declining enrolment."


Anonymous said...

I support the motion. Research published since the EPSB developed the sustainability review process shows that small schools provide the best environment for some students. A "District of Choice" should not be taking away choices.

Demographic challenges in mature neighbourhoods are valid concerns that could be addressed by good municipal planning. However, I'm not sure that city council gets that many proposed infill projects are "exclusive" or "adult-living" and therefore do nothing to support community schools.

Young families are fleeing to the suburbs. We need to offer them positive options in communities that already have infrastructure. Closing schools accelerates the dismal process of urban sprawl.

Anyway, that's my two bits.

Christopher Spencer, a parent of a child at Grovenor School

Anonymous said...

yes i would support a moratorium on school closures
Woodcroft has many young families who will need a'
local school in a few years, let's not be short sighted.

Lisa Bak said...

Yes this is a no brainer. We left a neighbourhood whose public school had been closed, even before we moved in. Fooled us, we thought great house, close to the school, what's to not like. If you chose to live out in the suburbs then your kids will have a long bus ride. Decide what your priorities are and then buy your house. The school board needs to be more forceful with the province in getting what it needs now and not closing schools in an attempt to fit into some formula the province invented.

Wendy Brown said...


I support your motion, in general. I believe the terms of reference need to be broadened and that the committee absolutely needs to have regular members of the communities on it. Having members that aren't too bitter (good luck finding then!) from the previous closures would also strengthen the committee's resolve. I'd be happy to help in any way that I can.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely to the moratorium. An object, unbiased 3rd party should examine reasons for reduced attendance at schools in question, and ensure the scope of study is wide enough to consider all factors. Consideration should be given to futre growth apparently occurring in Edmonton now and over the foreseeable future. As well, schools can offer services to the community beyond their obvious main purpose.

Anonymous said...

Very much in support of your motion. I think a moratorium is urgently needed, to slow down and take a closer look at the real costs of closing neighbourhood schools.

The schools review process must take into account much more than simple dollars in facilities operation costs. Should we not be attempting to live up to Council's direction in implementing the Smart Choices - Smart Growth policy? A lot of the recommendations in this policy are fulfilled in having smaller neighbourhood schools - things like walkability and neighbourhood reinvestment. We should be arguing for sustainable neighbourhoods, and the presence of a school is one of the biggest factors to consider. (We moved into our neighbourhood last year, and hope to be here for many years to come - but if Woodcroft had not had an elementary school, this decision would have been very different.)

Close the schools and watch as the young families move away, the social diversity is reduced, and the community loses its focal point.

Again, thank you for raising this issue. We will be following the progress of your motion with great interest.

Patrick Hallonquist
Parent of a future Woodcroft School student (we hope!)

Clare said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I too support the motion. I agree with the posts so far so I won't repeat those.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned is the responsibility of the Board to maintain their facilities. The Board is using the physical condition of the school as part of their evaluation of whether to go into a closure process, however, they are the ones responsible for maintaining it. I understand that buildings get old and you can't do much about that, but in Grovenor's case we have a boiler that is over TWENTY YEARS beyond its recommended service life. The Board has had 20 years to fix it, but it hasn't happened.

The physical condition of the buildings should be separate from the evaluation process. Obviously we can't send our children to a building that is unsafe, and on the other had I wouldn't want the Board to waste money on a building that has reached the end of its lifespan either.

Brinton McLaughlin
A Grovenor Resident

Anonymous said...

I support your motion and I appreciate that you have listened to our comments and frustrations regarding the way this issue has been handled, or should I say, mishandled by the school board. Parents and communities have been left to pick up the pieces of poor infrastrure management as well poor advertising of community schools. The board, city and transportation need to work together to make this city, especially current mature neighbouroods (the new ones will be old someday!), viable and sustainable for what they are: wonderful places to live, play, walk and be with others.

Randy Sloan said...

I also support your motion. In a time of "open" school boundaries, maybe EPSB should "open" their minds. These smaller schools can offer a great deal more than the so-called "super schools" that are being planned for many of the new subdivisions.

Also if EPSB has a genuine commitment to working with parents of schools under review, then provide these people with the resources and the educational expertise to support a meaningful review, rather than simply sending in "power note takers"

Thank you for showing the leadership and commitment needed to address this important issue.

a concerned parent from Woodcroft Elementry Scchool said...

More time is needed to review the effects of school closure on niegbourhoods, communities and families. It seems these days we are too quick to save a dollar when in the end when we look back and we have to spend so much more to fix what we have done. There needs to be better communication to the schools that are in need or review. More time is needed for these schools to come up with a plan to make their school more viable in the school boards eyes. Personaly I think that every school has value in every community for many reasons. Having community schools gives children a base and a sense of their own community. They get to know the people in their neighbourhood. Walking to school gives them the excercise, that the school board is wanting to focus on. After all they have put in place new physical activity implements in the schools recently and have banned junk food. If more small schools close because of meerly money issues the children that the school board is supposed to protect are going to fall through the cracks of the system. Later on we all pay as a society. Sue Huff is doing great things. She is connected to the people and gives us a voice to be heard. Great job Sue!

mackb said...

I completely agree with Sue's motion for a moratorium. Finally, someone that is buying the community some time to have their voices heard and asking for accountability.

The parent of a future Ritchie school child (Millcreek and Ritchie Jr. High)

Thanks Sue!

Anonymous said...

As a parent of a family that has been affected by school closure issues for the last 7 years i totally support this motion. As a resident of West edmonton our children have attended schools across edmonton.edmonton's forefathers were wise to secure some beautiful school sites that this generation wants to discard. Take a stroll thru J. A. McDougall school and you will know what i mean! A. Kusiak

Patricia Grell said...

I whole heartedly support Sue's motion. I believe that it is very short sighted of the EPSB to be closing schools when the province is trying to attract 100,000 immigrants to fill the current labour shortage. All those immigrants will be bringing with them their young families. Where will they live and send their children to school? If you close schools in the city they will move to the suburbs thus encouraging urban sprawl.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly support the motion for a 1 yr moratorium on the closure of any district school. I am appalled that the EPSB watches while a school's attendance declines over several years, then places the school on a sustainability review list and puts the onus on the parents to devise a solution to the low enrollment figures.

Bill Burtnik said...

Yes! I support Sue's motion. Points that I would like to make:
· Many mature neighborhoods have stable demographics and the community school is well attended. Statistically they may not meet the sustainability criteria but remain close. Constant scrutiny may scare families from enrolling, which slowly moves the school further from the bar. I recommend that criteria be established that is appropriate for such communities. One size does not fit all.
· Why can’t EPSB come out with a positive spin on community schools? There are many benefits and reasons why community schools should be the default choice: social, fitness, economic, and environmental.
· City of Edmonton and EPSB planning seem to be working against one another: one group wants to promote density while the other wants to close schools.
· Money can’t be the deciding factor. Schools must be evaluated on the quality of education provided and the quality of the students produced, which are not related to sustainability but to the administration. Like other choices we make in life: if the service is poor, families take their business elsewhere. Provide administrators and educators with the tools required to do their jobs.

Bill Burtnik
Capilano and Hardisty school parent

Yvette Cioran said...

I am in full support of Sue's Motion. My community and its surrounding neighbourhoods face loosing our local Ritchie Junior High.

I'm a Millcreek resident of 10 years with 4 children under the age of 13 and Ritchie is the closest Junior High School in this area. The next school has over 700kids and is a 40 minutes bus ride. It is mighty cold and lonely when a 13 year old has to get up before anyone else in the household to walk to the bus stop for 7:30 in -20 degree weather. They get into trouble when they are late!

Ritchie is our local school, blocks away. Accessible and worth the effort for our children and for our communities.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Sue Huff for taking a stand against the antiquated school closure process. My daughter attends grade 3 at the International Spanish Academy at Mill Creek School. Last year I experienced the closure process first hand. It was very bureaucratic and full of statistics on paper. Closing a school on paper is very different than the human face of closure. We saved our school and Sue Huff may have saved many more with this motion. Thank You Sue!

Parent of a grade 3 student at Mill Creek School

Anonymous said...

I am totally in support of Sue's motion. EPSB is quick to use school closures as a reason to not put money into maintenance as they should have been doing years ago. Ritchie Jr. High for example has had a student population decline for the last 5 years or so. The building has much to offer a sports program or arts program, or a special education program for k-9. It's location is prime. J.H. Picard works extremely well,EPSB should observe some of their ideas, see what's made them so successful.
We are slowly losing our identity in the older neighborhoods. Lets give our young people something to be proud of, rejuvenate some of these schools so that parents will be interested in sending their children to a site like Ritchie. Small schools do provide a good environment for many students, helping many to achieve success.
The school based budget doesn't work well for many sites, lets not make another mistake like it.

Anonymous said...

anonymous said...

I will be very sad if Ritchie Jr. High closes. My daughter attended this school and loved it and did excellent may I add. My son presently goes there and loves it. There is alot to be said about a small school. It is also a great transition into high school. One of the things I loved most was being able to have my children come home for lunch and be able to touch base with them. Eating meals together is very important to our family. There is so little time now adays to touch base with our kids. I will be very sad if I have to ship my youngest next year off to school by bus at 7:30 a.m. and not see him until 4:30 p.m. There are so many issues the school board doesn't take into account when making these decisions.

Anonymous said...

I support the motion. I feel it is extremely important that the EPSB spend time and effort looking for creative solutions to keep urban schools OPEN instead of closed. A moratorium on school closures would allow the EPSB Trustees and facilities people to take a new look at old problems. Closure is not the answer, creative partnerships is. For example, my children's daycare, Primrose Place Family Centre, is facing eviction and closure because we can't find any space to rent. What better way to save a non-profit daycare and a school than by sharing space? Why am I only finding out NOW about Ritchie Jr. High's utilization rate when I inquired over a year ago as to available space within operating schools in central Edmonton? A daycare would bring families to this area, and would eventually contribute to increasing enrollment in all the schools in this area, including Ritchie Jr. High. I'm sure the same can be said for underutilized schools all over Edmonton. It's time for a new approach.

Tami Friesen
Future Ritchie Jr. High Mom
Present Primrose Place Day Care Mom

Anonymous said...

I would like to express my strong support for Trustee Huff's motion for a one year moratorium on the closure of any schools in the Edmonton Public School District.

While dollars and cents are important to any organization or corporation, they are not the only important factor that should be considered.

Although more and more young families are forced to move to the suburbs, you will find much in-building in older areas such as the Ritchie community and surrounding area. With this comes more young families and the prospect of future higher enrolments in area schools. With time neighborhood demographics change - how many years down the road will it be before schools such as the three being considered for closure this year will again have a viable student population?

EPSB suggests that closing schools will reduce costs, but bussing students to other schools does not significantly help to achieve lower transportation costs.

As a parent, I was happy to have my children in a small elementary school where they received an excellent quality of education in a caring environment, where staff and students all knew each other.

Perhaps with the myriad of alternative programs EPSB offers throughout the city, EPSB administration could help to re-locate or expand one of these to the Ritchie site.

A concerned parent

Anonymous said...

I wish to epxress strong support for Trustee Huff's motion to review the school closure process in the Edmonton Public School System.

The Edmonton Public School Board prides itself on the any "programs of choice" it offers. While this is commendable, it also poses enrolment problems for other schools, as students go outside of their school's boundaries, thus affecting many older neighborhood schools, such as Ritchie Junior High.

Smaller junior high populations such as Ritchie are ideal for many adolescents who do not thrive in larger schools. In the smaller environment many of these students feel more secure and safe. They are not just another one of four or five hundred students and they are less likely to fall through the cracks. Many parents have appreciated this aspect of sending their children to Ritchie and other small junior highs.

I know that Ritchie has home ec. and industrial arts facilities and a large gymnasium that many other junior highs would like to have.

Let's do something to bolster Ritchie's numbers - the school still has a lot of life left in it!

Anonymous said...

Students should be able to attend neighborhood schools. I agree with the moratorium on school closures. Our local junior high should not be closed because the Spanish program did not move there. Some students did not go there this year who would have gone there if there wasn't so much publicity about this.

Anonymous said...

This motion deserves support by all trustees. I hope some of the assumptions about why schools must be closed are openly discussed, and maybe there is a better way to "fix" a school with declining enrollment. Issues such as how the funding is received from the province, and the value of a school in its community, should be part of the review.