Southeast Oakville parents appeal school-closure plan



    OAKVILLE, ON, Aug. 5 /CNW/ - A strong core of parents representing all
six elementary schools in Southeast Oakville has united to fight the decision
by the Halton District School Board to close schools in their area.
    Earlier this month, the board announced closure of Brantwood Public
School, Linbrook Public School, Chisholm Public School and New Central School.
The stated goal is to transfer funds from the sale of the school sites to
construct a new Kindergarten-to-Grade Eight school in the Clearview area. The
decision removes all schools, at any level, from the western half of Southeast
Oakville (west of Morrison Road). It is anticipated that this area will
experience intensification (growth) in the coming years once the hospital is
relocated to a new site in another part of town.
    Parents from Maple Grove Public School and EJ James Public School are
entitled to apply for review because of the radical change to programming at
those schools.
    The Board's decision to close four schools was never a model considered
in public discussion and debate. Moreover, the Board's assumptions about how
much revenue it could derive from the sale of land in Southeast Oakville
changed by a huge 135% between the time of public consultation and the time of
the Board's decision to close the schools. The idea of using the revenue
generated by the sale of four schools to construct a new school in Clearview
was never considered.
    "The closure of four schools represents too momentous a change to the
delivery of education and too dramatic an impact on the community to not have
faced meaningful public input," stressed parent Greg McGinnis. "The people of
Southeast Oakville deserve a fair and open process with complete and accurate
information before any final decisions are made. I do not feel that we have
had that process. Instead, it seems like there was a rush to judgment on an
issue that dramatically alters the very nature of a long-established area of
Oakville."
    McGinnis added: "Everyone acknowledges the need for change and a fair
outcome, but we don't need - or want - radical surgery."
    The board's plan will require almost every student in the entire area to
change schools. That's over 1,000 children who would have to move - this is
extremely stressful and disruptive to teachers, staff, parents and children.
    The Ministry of Education provides that an administrative review of the
accommodation review process may be requested within 30 days of the closure
decision. The parents have initiated such a request on the grounds that the
board's process was flawed. The appeal claims the board did not properly
follow its Program and Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) process - the
process it has mandated for use when a school is to be closed.
    In short, the parents' arguments centre on a lack of public
participation, no alternate accommodation plans for the students impacted,
appointments to the PARC, the fact that the board did not provide the required
60 days notice of its meeting to consider school accommodation and an almost
1000% error on bussed student numbers, which the Trustees reviewed in making
their decision.
    McGinnis noted that this is about more than just process.
    "We face the prospect of having long-established, mature neighbourhoods
drastically altered," said McGinnis. "Students traditionally riding their
bikes or walking to school will be on a bus. Once lost, the valuable green
space will be gone forever."
    The board will have 30 days to respond to the province on the request for
an administrative review. Signatures from 30 per cent of the parents from each
school were required to allow the request to move forward. That target was
easily exceeded.
    "That's quite impressive considering school is out for the summer and
many families are away on vacation," noted McGinnis.
    The parents believe if the board wishes to consider options other than
those in the PARC report provided earlier this year, it should be directed to
establish a new PARC and such a committee should be chaired and facilitated by
an independent person appointed by the province
    "This action is being taken to protect the community we call home," said
McGinnis. "These community schools and their corresponding green space have
allowed children to learn, play and grow for generations. Before any change is
made, everyone must be given an opportunity to let their voices be heard. "
    While only one set of grounds for an administrative review is being
submitted, it has been agreed by all the signatories that the document should
represent six separate applications - one from each of the six schools. An
electronic version of the submitted document can be found on-line at
http://www.oakvilleresidentsforpubliceducation.com.





For further information:

For further information: Mark Caskenette, Phone: (416) 673-5540

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OAKVILLE RESIDENTS FOR PUBLIC EDUCATION

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