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Accommodation review moratorium continues

Although the Rainbow District School Board is in the second year of a moratorium on accommodation reviews, trustees were reminded at their Jan. 29 meeting they may have to deal with several within the next few years. On Jan.
Rainbow District School Board Director of Education Norm Blaseg reminded trustees at their Jan. 29 meeting that although they're in the second year of a two-year accommodation review moratorium, they still have an obligation stemming from past reviews. File photo.
Although the Rainbow District School Board is in the second year of a moratorium on accommodation reviews, trustees were reminded at their Jan. 29 meeting they may have to deal with several within the next few years.

On Jan. 31, 2012, trustees with the board voted to put a two-year moratorium on accommodation reviews because of the uncertainty that came with the province's attempts to rein in a large deficit.

Accommodation reviews involve an often-controversial process where school boards seek public input on reducing surplus space in schools.

They sometimes result in school closures, as was the case for the Rainbow board in 2010, when it voted to close Wanup Public School and Long Lake Public School.

Director of Education Norm Blaseg reminded trustees that based on a motion passed Jan. 24, 2011, the board is supposed to consider holding accommodation reviews for its Espanola and Valley North area schools sometime in the next three years.

This would affect A.B. Ellis Public School, S. Geiger Public School, Webbwood Public School, Espanola High School, Chelmsford Public School, Larchwood Public School, Levack Public School and Chelmsford Valley District Composite School.

Even if the board were to vote in favour of an accommodation review next year, when the moratorium is lifted, it wouldn't start until September 2014.

This follows a recommendation from independent facilitator Margaret Wilson, who conducted an administrative review of the Rainbow board's accommodation review process in 2011.

She recommended that in the future, accommodation reviews conducted by the board take place within the school year.

Blaseg also reminded the board of the implications of a few other motions.

Based on a motion passed Nov. 22, 2011, Sudbury Secondary School will only retain its French Immersion program if there's at least 45 Grade 9 and 10 students enrolled in the program as of Oct. 31, 2013.

Monetville Public School is also supposed to be right-sized based on a Nov. 15, 2010 motion. However, Blaseg said the board recently received word from the province that it won't be receiving funds for the project.

“It doesn't mean that it won't happen in the future, though,” he said.

Although the Rainbow board won't be conducting any accommodation reviews this year, it did vote Jan. 29 to have staff review some boundaries for Lasalle Secondary School, as well as the sharing of facilities with coterminous boards.

Blaseg said the earliest the outcome from either of these reviews could be put into place is September 2014.

He explained that students who live on Second Avenue and Notre Dame Avenue attend the same elementary school, but when it comes to high school, they're divided between Lasalle and Sudbury Secondary School, depending on which side of the road they live on.

“We're asking staff to review that boundary and come back with some recommendations, and see what type of impact it might have on both Sudbury Secondary and Lasalle.”

Trustee Judy Hunda cautioned board staff to make sure it examines the impact any boundary changes might have on Sudbury Secondary School.

“I remind everyone that Sudbury Secondary only has one feeder school,” she said.

At the same time, she said she empathizes with students who are being separated from friends they've attended school with since junior kindergarten because of school boundaries.

In terms of the review of the possibility of sharing facilities, Blaseg said this concept certainly isn't new.

“Our board has always advocated looking at sharing facilities,” he said.

For years, the Rainbow board has successfully shared Espanola High School with the French Catholic board, trustee Dena Morrison said.

However, the board has received funding to build their own high school in the community, something which the Rainbow board opposes.

“We've had a long-standing relationship there,” Morrison said. “But they're being encouraged through capital funding to build their own school for 40 kids a block away.”

As well, keeping in mind the fact that the Rainbow board has been denied funding to right-size Monetville Public School, Morrison said the ideal situation would be to build one elementary school in Noelville for area students from all four boards.

“French boards have access to much more capital funding than the English boards do,” she said.

“So if there's a possibility of us contributing our 10 cents to make something happen for kids in that area, I know that's something we would all support.”

When asked where discussions are with the other boards for building a joint school in Noelville, Blaseg said there were some informal meetings between the parties last summer.

“I would suggest to you at this point that we have not spoken to that issue since then, in light of all the things that have transpired since the summer. Obviously, this is an opportunity for us to reengage in conversations.”

Heidi Ulrichsen

About the Author: Heidi Ulrichsen

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