Wednesday, February 24, 2010

To All Ward C re: Sector Reviews

Hi,


Last night, the Board of Trustees approved the recommendation to apply Sector Reviews to West 1, Central and South Central Sectors. All the elementary and junior high schools in Ward C fall within these sectors. (Please note:  These upcoming Sector Reviews will not apply to high schools in these sectors, as all high schools across the District form a separate sector.)
There is a lot of information in this email. Please read it carefully.

To: All constituents of Ward C, particularly parents of elementary and junior high students
From: Sue Huff, Ward C Trustee

RE: Sector Reviews coming to Ward C and why this matters to you

There is some important information that I need to share with you. I hope you will pass it on to your parent and community population. Starting in the early spring 2010 (March or April), EPSB will be conducting Sector Reviews in Ward C. Every elementary and junior high school in Ward C will be reviewed with the primary aim of reducing excess space. During the same time period, Sector Reviews will also be taking place in the central and south-central parts of the city, covering 82 schools in the most mature neighbourhoods of Edmonton. The long term plan is to continue with this process until every sector of the District has been reviewed in order to address our problem of 37,000 excess student spaces.

Right now, we are piloting this process with small-scale sector reviews of schools in the inner city and a cluster of schools in the Hardisty/Capilano/Gold Bar/Fulton area. You may have read about the potential school closures in the newspaper. I have learned a few things from this initial pilot that I wish to pass on to you.

First of all, many people in those communities did not know what “Sector Review” meant and therefore did not participate in the consultation process. This may have been due to language barriers or simply a lack of comprehension regarding the seriousness of the issue. In plain language, “Sector Reviews” are about possible school closures, reconfigurations and consolidations. Please ensure that your community is clear about the importance of these reviews and encourage people to participate in the public consultations when they occur in your area.

Secondly, some important measures have been changed. The capacity of a school is now being measured by the provincially-calculated measure called ACU (Area, Capacity and Utilization). It is not ACOL capacity which appears on your school profile. If you are not familiar with your school profile, please visit http://districtsite.epsb.ca/root/SchoolViability.cfm  The ACOL Capacity was based on a count of classrooms multiplied by the student count derived from the recommendations of the Alberta Commission on Learning (ACOL). In an elementary school, the ACOL recommended student count averaged out at 20 students per classroom. Therefore, an elementary school with 10 classrooms would have an ACOL capacity of 200 (20 students X 10 classrooms). ACOL Capacity was developed by EPSB, but it is not recognized by the Province as a method of determining capacity and is therefore not being used in Sector Reviews.

By contrast, the provincially-calculated ACU capacity looks at the square footage of your building and deducts certain things like: Career and Technology (CTS) space in junior highs, space used by decentralized administration, space leased to not-for-profit groups and other levels of government. All other space in your school, including libraries, gymnasiums, hallways and any leases to “For Profit” organizations counts as empty space in the provincially calculated ACU. ACU is based on safety codes for the maximum number of people a building can hold. Over the next few months, I will be arguing strenuously that ACU is not a fair or accurate capacity measure for educational purposes and should not be used in Sector Reviews, however until further notice, you should plan on ACU being the capacity measure used.

In plain language, this means that your school’s capacity for Sector Reviews will be larger than you might imagine. Your Principal will be able to inform you of the provincially-calculated ACU capacity for your school.

‪Thirdly, the viability indicators or benchmarks, as seen on your school profile, are not the only criteria being considered and therefore are not as significant as before. These benchmarks, as seen in brackets ( ) for each viability indicator of your school profile are now being considered along with a number of other issues, like equitable distribution of programming within a sector, transportation implications, the equitable placement of district sites for children with special needs, proximity to other schools and effective grade configurations. This makes for a much more complex and strategic look at schools and school space.

It might be helpful for you to look over the current recommendations for the city centre (CCEP) and Hardisty area to understand how different the Sector Reviews are the previous Sustainability Review process. Under the old process, schools often felt “safe” as long as there was someone with a smaller enrolment than them. This is no longer the case and no one should make the mistake of feeling this doesn’t involve them. Although it is highly unlikely that a school with a very high enrolment would be closed, it could be reconfigured. In this current round of reviews, we have a school with an enrolment of 218 recommended to close (Fulton) to consolidate into a reconfigured K-9 at nearby Hardisty. We have two schools (Eastwood and Parkdale) recommended to close and consolidate with Delton Elementary, even though this fails to meet the 1.6 KM walk limit benchmark. We have a recommendation to reconfigure a K-9 school (Spruce Avenue) with an enrolment of 303, moving the 153 elementary students to another location, in order to turn the school into a junior high.

Unlike the Sustainability Review which looked at schools in isolation and one at a time, Sector Reviews can create significant change to many schools at once. The aim is to create a viable long-term solution for all the schools in the sector.

I recognize that you may be hearing this information for the first time and it may cause some anxiety for you and your school community. I don’t want to cause panic, but I DO want you to be well-informed and fully aware of the situation. It would be unconscionable for me to allow you to operate under false assumptions and thereby miss your critical opportunity to be meaningfully engaged in the consultation process this spring. Every school should have good representation at the public consultations. If your parent population has language barriers, we can provide translators. If childcare is a barrier to participation, please let me know and I will work to ensure that this is understood and accommodated. I wish to ensure that everyone’s voice is heard.

I have written several blogs about my thoughts on the current round of reviews, including my comments during the debate, how I voted on each recommendation and why. I will continue to post information as this process unfolds. If you wish to read these posts, scroll back until you find the relevant blogs; the first debate was held on February 9.

Over the coming weeks, your Principal will be supplied with additional information on the Sector Review process and the dates of the public consultations, which will, of course, be shared with you. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have further questions.


Best regards,
Sue

Sue Huff, Vice-Chair & Trustee Ward C,
Email: Sue.Huff@epsb.ca

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