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Possible School Closures – How do we move forward together?

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  • Possible School Closures – How do we move forward together?

    Greater Hardisty Area & City Centre Education Partnership Edmonton Public Schools is engaging the community and stakeholders in a conversation on school space as the centre of a complete and vibrant community.

    We’ve gathered input on people’s values, ideas and suggestions on how, when, where and by whom school space could be used. We know the important role schools play as centres of support and involvement for kids, families and communities, the role school space plays in bringing a community together and providing services that integrate and support everyone in entire area. We also know how important you think schools are as part of urban renewal and revitalization.

    We've been told by the community that we need to answer a few hard questions: Is there a pre-determined outcome? NO. There is no plan for
    which schools will close - that is part of our conversation with you. Will schools close? IT IS LIKELY that the Administration will make recommendations to the Trustee that this happen, based on the realities of the situation.

    NOW, we need to reflect on the input people have provided AND consider the realities of declining enrolment, budgets under pressure and potential
    capital investment requirements. This is a hard conversation.

    Based on what you know about your kids, family, community and area – what options would YOU suggest for schools in Greater Hardisty and City Centre Education Partnership areas? We know your first response may be one that says “Don’t close my school”, and we understand that. However, due to the realities, it might happen anyway. So instead, think about your kids, family and community – if you don’t get what you want, how might you get what you need? How might we move forward in this change – together?

    --Steph McCallum
    Last edited by NoreneS; 30-11-2009, 08:56 AM.

  • #2
    Friends of mine suffered through the closures of Woodcroft and High Park Schools. It was a brutal experience.

    Although I agree that awful urban planning by the city is the primary source of the space problem, clearly EPSB policies which favour programming-based schools over community schools are contributing factors. For example, "special" schools which offer immersion or hockey or other bells or whistles have permission to advertise throughout Capilano -- but Capilano School can't advertise beyond its own attendance area. We've created an "Animal Farm" situation: four-legs (community schools) good, two-legs (programming schools) better.

    The district needs to commit to equality and fairness -- give schools a real chance to succeed before they are declared failures.

    Until an opportunity is provided to succeed, parents (and their children) will continue to see closure as a kind of violation.

    There is no good way to close a school. However, if it has to be done, the best model I've seen was proposed by the community leagues and parent associations at High Park and Grovenor Schools. It called for a merger of equals within one campus. Students from the building set for closure would have been able to move, with their friends and teachers, to a rebranded facility equally responsible to both communities. Although the school itself would close, at least its culture might survive, as well as the friendships and existing educational partnerships.

    Parents from High Park and Grovenor met to discuss how to make merger possible. Alas, the district was disinterested in this conversation and imposed its own vision: taking some High Park students into a large school already operating at 97 per cent of capacity and scattering the others into the wind, a few here, a few there. The loss of community connectiveness was as devastating as the boarding up of the building.
    http://www.twitter.com/ckls

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Green Grovenor View Post

      There is no good way to close a school. However, if it has to be done, the best model I've seen was proposed by the community leagues and parent associations at High Park and Grovenor Schools. It called for a merger of equals within one campus. Students from the building set for closure would have been able to move, with their friends and teachers, to a rebranded facility equally responsible to both communities. Although the school itself would close, at least its culture might survive, as well as the friendships and existing educational partnerships.
      This is a common sense solution that could easily work IF EPSB has the sense to take a chance and implement it. Consolidating K-3 in one of the elementary schools (Capilano or Fulton) and 4-9 at Hardisty is another practical option that needs to be discussed. This keeps the kids in the same central area, with access to parks, Hardisty pool and the Fulton Daycare/Afterschool Care centres.

      My daughter starts kindergarten in less than 2 years. Now we don't know if she'll have a school to go to in the Fulton area.

      While I applaud EPSB for creating some great programs, the current policy of open boundaries has led to the demise of far too many schools. Gone are the days when kids went to school where they lived. A bigger contributing factor is the gross urban sprawl and the demand for brand new facilities in those communities when established communities like Capilano/Gold Bar/Fulton Place are faced with closure of their schools.

      While it is promising to see the school board consulting with the community, I fear that they have already made a decision and that these open houses, forums and discussion groups are only lip service.

      Comment


      • #4
        Note the irony - the next story is about Great Neighbourhoods* and school closures are essentially about "block busting" as they used to call it when deemed 'evil' developers destroyed a neighbourhood's cohesiveness.

        *Great Neighbourhoods: Shaping the Future of Where We Live. Together.
        Tuesday November 17, 2009 by Stephane Labonne

        Comment


        • #5
          Sector Review - can we really move forward together?

          The question has been asked, “How do we move forward together?”

          I truly understand the idea of wanting to make things easier for community members in the process of closing a school; giving us a forum for some input on how to direct this unpleasant process. However, I don't consider this a move that I would call "forward". I live in the neighbourhood of the CCEP schools and I think my community is moving forward. Revitalizing, changing. Ask the residents - they are excited to see what is happening. And when I am faced with the possibility - or should what I am told is the certainty - of school closures, I think this goes against everything good that is happening in our inner-city communities. Filling our schools with other community organizations is not going to bring young families to our neighbourhoods. So, based on this decision, I am not ready to move "forward" with EPSB and this decision.

          How do we truly move forward together?

          Start with what we can agree upon. Our schools are dealing with low enrollment numbers. Budgets are being stretched. Principals and teachers are having to do more with less. I think we can all look at the numbers, talk to our teachers and principals, and agree with these premises. I think it is safe to say that we all see that status quo is not the ideal situation and is not sustainable in our current system.

          Strive for a win-win situation. If we are taking the time to brainstorm, "think out of the box", etc., then why don't we spend some time trying to think up ways of keeping our current programs open? Perhaps the educational teams, the parents, and the community members can come together in true collaboration and endeavor to make all of our CCEP and Hardisty schools remain open for business as schools.

          Give everyone the tools that are necessary to make informed choices.
          The community "Sector Review" meetings were about open brainstorming and sharing whatever thoughts we had regarding our schools and what we want to see in our communities. This is a good process to get things going, but eventually it has to be directed - each group must share its understanding of the process and the information it has - both the options and the limitations. In this process, the principal of my children's school and the teaching staff were expected to give little information about their own perspectives and opinions in order to keep the process "pure". But I need to know the challenges they are facing to better understand the issue. The planners didn't reveal the types of cuts we were even looking at until Dec. 1. But I need to know the scale of the change we are seeking in order to understand how to make an intelligent recommendation. It isn't a fair and equal conversation unless all parties are allowed the same access to all perspectives and information and given the same amount of time to react to the data.

          I believe that this whole "Sector Review" process was created as a response to the backlash that the EPSB received in past school closures. And I applaud EPSB for trying to do something. I also appreciate the work that Dialogue Partners has done to try to make this process as positive and inclusive as possible and they were given specific objectives to meet. But when the decision to cut student spaces has already been made, I don't feel that we have really been included in a "conversation".

          When my daughter gets dressed in the morning, I might give her a choice of two shirts to wear - shirts that will match her pants. This gives the appearance that she is making the choice, but in fact, I have already chosen her clothes. Sometimes she sees through this and says she wants to wear something else - that she wants to have a real choice of the many options available.

          I want this too.

          I want to have a real conversation and move forward by trying another way – together.

          Comment


          • #6
            Cathy M

            Very good post and great thoughts!

            Now if we can get EPSB to follow through...you've laid out the frame work for them

            Tom

            Comment


            • #7
              I am new to the school system - my kids are in K and Gr2. They attend an inner city school.

              I have a number of questions - there are tons of kids in my neighbourhood - many of them are bussed out of the community for school. Many of the "middle or high income" families are looking for specialty programs or are uncomfortable with their kids attending "rough" schools. If we removed the "open boarders" (I think that is what they call it) what would happen to enrollment? and what would the likely long term result of the existing schools? More parents involved may mean more input and a slightly different direction to the neighbourhood schools?

              Why are we so committed to reducing the range of grades in schools? My kids go to a k-9 school and I think the only way it could get better is if it was a k-12 school. My kids totally benefit from the opportunity that exposure to the "big kids" that they get at school. I also suspect there are benefits to the "big kids" I just don't know what they are.

              Having kids schooled in very narrow sectors - K-6, 7-9 and then 10-12 might be efficient, but it is really good for kids or schools or communities?

              Is bussing kids to schools the right solution or is making more schools appealing to a broader sector a community a better solution?

              Comment


              • #8
                Get serious.

                Originally posted by NoreneS View Post
                We've been told by the community that we need to answer a few hard questions: Is there a pre-determined outcome? NO. There is no plan for
                which schools will close - that is part of our conversation with you.
                --Steph McCallum
                Parents and taxpayers need to be aware that above statement is not always the case. And should view the quote with much skepticism

                In the case of the closure of Strathearn School, FOIPPed Edmonton Public cluster study documents included documentation of a space requirement study for (current leasee) french school Gabrielle Roy, dated well prior to the closure process beginning, despite constant assurances from both Board trustees and committee members that there was no other use yet proposed.

                Gabrielle Roy (to my knowledge) is not part of Edmonton Public System.

                The parents of Strathearn obtained an injunction to halt the process until it could be determined if it complied with Provincial school closure guidelines.
                Edmonton Public who claimed to have the community's interests at heart promptly threatened to sue the parents for the cost of Edmonton Public's legal fees if they persisted with another injunction. In the end the parents backed down, the injunction lapsed and the next day the board voted to close Strathearn. That was the last week of June 2005.

                So it appears that part of Edmonton Public's "discussion with you" may be two faced and include legal action if you try to stop them from what it is they want to do.

                My advise to parents trying to save their community school that their tax dollars paid for is;
                Edmonton Public has come to take your kids school away. If you are serious get legal representation at the start of the process, that way your group is entitled to all documentation concerning the school and the process to close it. Hold Edmonton Public's feet to the fire concerning every single clause of the process.
                Keep in mind the process is only one way and Edmonton Public doesn't really care what you want.
                That being the case, know that Edmonton Public trustees and their appointed committee will lie to you and threaten you to get what they want, so you will need legal representation if you are serious.
                Otherwise wave bye bye to your school and prepare to start driving your child to some other school in another community.
                Last edited by Richard Bunky Bell; 16-01-2010, 11:02 PM.
                I can't HEAR YOU.

                Comment


                • #9
                  The city and provincial debt load is likely responsible for closures as their budget paying down the debt seems to be tight,,,Why else are schools being closed?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by cudgel View Post
                    The city and provincial debt load is likely responsible for closures as their budget paying down the debt seems to be tight,,,Why else are schools being closed?
                    why else? because we have more schools and more classrooms than we have students... historically we built schools - two sets of schools actually, which compounds the problem - based on the peak demand for schools that occurs within a short period of time of any new subdivision being developed. this is not a new phenomonen - it dates back to when hardisty and gold bar and many of the other now more established neighborhoods were new. subsequent "rolling over" of the homes in those neighborhoods typically occurs at a frequency that sees long-term demand for schools settle in at between 50 and 65% of the initial peak demand. i live in a community that has a current total enrolment in a k-6 school of 74 students. it cost the system about the same to keep it open as a school with 2 or 3 times that many students. its enrolment would be higher without "open borders" but that would still be simply shifting the desks from neighborhood to neighborhood, not occupying more of them. a targeted of schools to keep open in areas that are targeted for substantial infill development (such as what might have applied to alex taylor and the quarters) should be part of our long-term planning but our long-term planning will also have to include closures or consolidations not because of debt loads but because there aren't enough students to keep them all open. and continually avoiding this issue by relying on "school by school" assessments with no predetermined outcome simply means that we have no predetermined outcome for the overall system which only perpetuates the problems in the most expensive manner possible, it doesn't solve them.
                    Last edited by kcantor; 24-01-2010, 05:11 PM.
                    "If you did not want much, there was plenty." Harper Lee

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by cudgel View Post
                      Why else are schools being closed?
                      The school boards feel presured to build new schools in neighborhoods that don't have them. That costs money, so the mature schools have to pay the price. The smarter thing to do, would be to bus kids from those new neighborhoods (or simply let the parents drive them). If parents choose a neighborhood without a school, they should pay for that poor choice, not us taxpayers who made smarter choices. Until all the schools are full, no new ones should be built.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Now that seems sensible and true as the baby boomer crowd prolific activity has slowed down quite a bit demografically speaking..Less kids being produced= vacant seats....Rent the spaces of empty classrooms out to Small business may be a potential generator to keep them running provided acceptable screening of those business are applied and no walk ins are allowed...Strictly office space. Thats just an idea...


                        Originally posted by kcantor View Post
                        Originally posted by cudgel View Post
                        The city and provincial debt load is likely responsible for closures as their budget paying down the debt seems to be tight,,,Why else are schools being closed?
                        why else? because we have more schools and more classrooms than we have students... historically we built schools - two sets of schools actually, which compounds the problem - based on the peak demand for schools that occurs within a short period of time of any new subdivision being developed. this is not a new phenomonen - it dates back to when hardisty and gold bar and many of the other now more established neighborhoods were new. subsequent "rolling over" of the homes in those neighborhoods typically occurs at a frequency that sees long-term demand for schools settle in at between 50 and 65% of the initial peak demand. i live in a community that has a current total enrolment in a k-6 school of 74 students. it cost the system about the same to keep it open as a school with 2 or 3 times that many students. its enrolment would be higher without "open borders" but that would still be simply shifting the desks from neighborhood to neighborhood, not occupying more of them. a targeted of schools to keep open in areas that are targeted for substantial infill development (such as what might have applied to alex taylor and the quarters) should be part of our long-term planning but our long-term planning will also have to include closures or consolidations not because of debt loads but because there aren't enough students to keep them all open. and continually avoiding this issue by relying on "school by school" assessments with no predetermined outcome simply means that we have no predetermined outcome for the overall system which only perpetuates the problems in the most expensive manner possible, it doesn't solve them.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Actually, there are slightly more school children in Edmonton today than there were ten years ago. The problem is that many now live farther away from the core. It is the provincial government that decides where and when new schools are built. Local school boards have some input and make recommendations, but the province builds them and then the school board is responsible for their operation and maintenance. And since money is tight, older schools (often with lower enrollment and under-maintained facilities) pay the price.

                          But this creates an unsustainable pattern, reinforcing a sprawl away from the city's centre out to the suburbs. The political division between Alberta, the city of Edmonton and the school boards means that no one entity is taking responsibility for planning where schools (and by extension families) will be. The whole process is reactive, not proactive. The core of our city (not downtown, but older residential areas - think big trees and brick houses with porches) will become less vibrant in a few years or decades, as Edmonton turns into one big bedroom community.

                          Imagine if, instead of 12 new schools being built on the outer edges of the city, the province decided to build six new ones in more mature neighbourhoods, and spent the rest of the same money revitalizing some of the buildings it already has (probably more than six - it's cheaper to renovate than build new). Imagine if the city decided to focus on smart growth, walkable communities and urban revitialization instead of more sprawl. Imagine if the school board collaborated on all this.

                          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Urbanism
                          http://www.rewedmonton.ca/content_view2?CONTENT_ID=84
                          Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. -John F. Kennedy

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by nmorra View Post
                            Actually, there are slightly more school children in Edmonton today than there were ten years ago. The problem is that many now live farther away from the core. It is the provincial government that decides where and when new schools are built. Local school boards have some input and make recommendations, but the province builds them and then the school board is responsible for their operation and maintenance. And since money is tight, older schools (often with lower enrollment and under-maintained facilities) pay the price.

                            But this creates an unsustainable pattern, reinforcing a sprawl away from the city's centre out to the suburbs. The political division between Alberta, the city of Edmonton and the school boards means that no one entity is taking responsibility for planning where schools (and by extension families) will be. The whole process is reactive, not proactive. The core of our city (not downtown, but older residential areas - think big trees and brick houses with porches) will become less vibrant in a few years or decades, as Edmonton turns into one big bedroom community.

                            Imagine if, instead of 12 new schools being built on the outer edges of the city, the province decided to build six new ones in more mature neighbourhoods, and spent the rest of the same money revitalizing some of the buildings it already has (probably more than six - it's cheaper to renovate than build new). Imagine if the city decided to focus on smart growth, walkable communities and urban revitialization instead of more sprawl. Imagine if the school board collaborated on all this.

                            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Urbanism

                            http://www.rewedmonton.ca/content_view2?CONTENT_ID=84
                            why would you build 6 new schools where you already have more classrooms and desks than you can fill? according to wiki ( ):

                            "According to the mid-2006 census, there were 730,372 residents within the city of Edmonton proper, compared to 3,290,350 for all of Alberta. The total population of the Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) was 1,034,945.[1][2] In 2009, a municipal census showed the city had a population of 782,439.[3][23]
                            In the five years between 2001 and 2006, the population of the city of Edmonton proper grew by 9.6%, compared with an increase of 10.4% for the Edmonton CMA and 10.6% for Alberta as a whole. The population density of the city of Edmonton proper averaged 1,067.2 people per square kilometre (2,764/sq mi), compared with an average of 5.1 people per square kilometre (13.2/sq mi) for Alberta altogether.[1]
                            In mid-2006, 11.9% of Edmonton's population were of retirement age (65 and over for males and females) compared with 13.7% in Canada.[1] The median age was 35.3 years of age, compared to 37.6 years of age for all of Canada. Also, according to the 2006 census, 50.5% of the population within the city of Edmonton proper were female, while 49.5% were male. Children under five accounted for approximately 5.6% of the resident population of Edmonton. This compares with 6.2% in Alberta, and almost 5.3% for Canada overall."

                            there was not - and won't be - enough "inner city" or exisitng neighborhood housing to provide shelter for those moving to edmonton and their families, primarily because those already occupying that housing stock are not going to vacate it anytime soon. and even when they do, the demand for schools and desks - except perhaps in downtown and the north edge and the quarters where we can substantially add to the exisiting housing stock - will never reach the levels for which our exisiting schools were meant to have when they were built. and to understand the why of that, you only have to look at average household size which fell from almost 5.0 at the turn of the century to 3.3 by 1950 to 2.5 in the early part of the 21st century. even if you turned over 100% of our older neighborhoods, you would still not have close to the same level of school age children that would have lived in those homes 50 years ago.

                            ps. anyone that thinks that renovating 40, 50 or 60 year old or older structures to current code and performance standards is cheaper than new hasn't done it.
                            Last edited by kcantor; 25-01-2010, 05:18 PM. Reason: added ps
                            "If you did not want much, there was plenty." Harper Lee

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              ^yes, but those schools would all fill over the next few years if the province stopped building new schools and expanding schools, tommorow. Once they are all full, all the schools we have, then build new ones. It is that simple, let the parents take their kids to the schools that are available, rather than wasting money taking the schools to the parents.

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