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School board confirms school closures, consolidations

-PECI photo promoting Pink Day.

Months of planning, discussions and waiting ended Monday night as the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board approved closures and consolidations to schools in Prince Edward County, Belleville and Centre Hastings.

The board’s final decisions for Prince Edward County:

That Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board approve Sophiasburgh Central School to remain open subject to conditions:
1. That all agreements relative to establishing “The Sophiasburgh Opportunity” a Community Hub at Sophiasburgh Central School, are signed in accord with the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board’s Administrative Procedure;

2. Signed contractual agreement(s) with the Sophiasburgh Community hub and The County of Prince Edward fund sourcing and governance building stakeholders are required, by no later than April 30, 2018;

3. Student population sustainability, to ensure program viability must be part of the
ongoing contractual consideration;

Should by May 1, 2018, signed contractual agreement(s) are not realized, for the establishment of a financially viable community hub at Sophiasburgh Central School; then the students are consolidated with students at Prince Edward Collegiate Institute (PECI) for September, 2018.

Effective September 2017: Consolidation of students from Pinecrest Memorial Elementary School and Queen Elizabeth School at the Queen Elizabeth School Picton site to form a Kindergarten to Grade 6 school.

Effective September 2017: relocating Grade 7 and 8 students from Pinecrest Memorial Elementary School, and Queen Elizabeth School Picton to Prince Edward Collegiate Institute, creating a Grade 7-12 school.

Effective September 2018: students would be consolidated from Queen Elizabeth School (Picton) and Prince Edward Collegiate Institute at PECI, creating a Kindergarten to Grade 12 School.

(See below for timeline links to background stories)

The board also approved its 2017-2018 operating and captial budgets in the amounts of $199,909,852 and $23,416,066, respectively.

A three-year ‘Multi-Year Financial Recovery Plan’ (2016-17 to 2018-19) that contained a proposed action plan to make permanent staff reductions, consolidate and close schools, and take a number of other savings measures was approved by the Board on Nov. 21, 2016. The plan was approved by the Ministry of Education Feb. 24, 2017 and requires the board to develop a financial budget for 2017-2018 that is balanced or contains a small in-year surplus for 2017-2018, while allowing for contingencies.

Enrolment projections for developing the 2017-2018 budget were calculated based upon input from schools. There is forecast to be a slight increase for elementary enrolment and a slight decrease for secondary enrolment. Overall, it is anticipated that the board enrolment will increase by 93 students.

The proposed budget has a projected in-year surplus of $3,065 and includes all planned savings measures from the Multi-Year Financial Recovery plan (except that two elementary schools are considered to close as a result of consolidation for 2017-2018, rather than the four elementary schools proposed in the plan). As well, the proposed budget includes additional savings measures achieved through further reductions to professional development and school budgets.

Click timeline links for background stories:
 June 2016: Drastic changes to County schools in draft scenarios to battle declining enrolment

Nov 2016: Six of County’s eight schools affected in proposals for closure and change

Jan 23: Councillor seeks support to stop school closures; stay local review process

Jan 30: MPP Smith seeks petition signatures to keep rural schools open

Jan 30: First public meeting for schools review set

Feb 1: Residents want more time to consider changes to schools

April 21: County and community call for suspension of changes to schools

May 6: New recommendation consolidates three schools this fall, moves all to PECI by 2018

May 13: Rural and remote education consultations ‘too little, too late’ for County schools

June 12: Recommendations for schools presented

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesHastings & Prince Edward District School Board

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  1. parent says:

    I attended the meetings and said my two cents.
    I don’t like the idea of my 4 year old going to school at the high school. But I do understand that schools have to close.

    An alternative that was not looked at because the goal is to keep the HS was to do a K-6 and a 7-12. I would have fully supported this plan.

    It was super interesting during the School Board vote last week to hear the Trustee’s say they didn’t want a mega elementary school in Belleville because it wouldn’t be a good environment for the kids. So they changed their original proposal.

    It was also interesting to hear them suggest that green space is so important for the Madoc Township kids, so they would keep that school open.

    Obviously those aren’t direct quotes.
    However the sentiment is “Mega Schools” are bad and green space is important.
    However that doesn’t apply to the County for some reason.

  2. Susan says:

    What was your proposed plan that could meet provincial reorganization and financial integrity?

  3. Julia says:

    Gilbert, class size was not considered in the equation because elementary classes are at lower maximums, French immersion was not factored in. The classrooms for the kindergartens are not big enough and have to be renovated to include a bathroom and cubbies, decreasing the space as well. The playing fields of which you spoke are for high school student access only. There is only the one field right behind the soccer field that they will have access to. Yes I agree there is a narrow strip of grass that they can get to the “great space” by, some day go and have a look. Oh by the way did I mention that they will be expanding the parking spaces back there. Oh and since cars park right up to the field, they may have to put a large fence to contain our kids. Very welcoming play space. They will only have access to one gym, that is the plan because the elementary and high school populations will physically separated. By the way the high school kids do actually use a all 3 gyms, loss number one for them. They are actually using some of the classrooms that will now be designated for elementary. They will in fact loose their culinary classrooms and I believe some tech classrooms, classrooms for special ed and classrooms designed for the esthetics programs. And at one time they had targeted their weight room. Oh and the playground, because it is a reno and not a new build, if we want to relocate Pinecrest or QE playground equipment (which actually the parents fundraised and paid for), we have to pay to have it moved.

  4. Mark says:

    We used to have grades 1-8 in one room classroom/schools! Students were disciplined, taught respect and they also failed rather than being slid along. And lo and behold they advanced with a sound education which could be debated as being better than today. We enable and baby kids far too much. Kids can generally adapt quite well, perhaps better than coddling parents in this case.

  5. Gilbert says:

    Julia, you might be thinking about the population with Sophiasburgh included. When Pinecrest and Queen Elizabeth students move to PECI, it will be at 84% capacity.
    How is that not enough room?
    As for the play area, I don’t see the problem. There are two soccer fields, plus a third field between the school and the other two that is big enough for a ball diamond, and they all are part of the high school. The access to that field is directly from the back door of the wing to be renovated for elementary students. Not even a foot of pavement, just directly onto grass. You can barely see the parking lot from there, never mind having to cross it.
    Don’t believe me? Check google maps.
    There is not currently a playground because it is a high school. When the school is renovated for the elementary kids, by law they will have to build one, presumably on that closer field.
    The soccer fields are currently swampy because of the flooding we’ve had, but they’re usually usable. This year is a pretty extraordinary circumstance.
    Where did you get the idea that high school programming will be decreased? There are so many empty classrooms they could’ve emptied the intended wing this year. Where did you get the idea they were not taking FI into consideration? Where did you get the idea that in a school with three gyms, there would only be one available for anyone?
    The only thing you said I agree with is that PECI is old and could be rebuilt for not much more than the renovations it needs.

  6. Dennis Fox says:

    The process might have been flawed, but name one that isn’t. At least the community had the ability to voice their concerns and to offer ideas – name another level of government that has given you that opportunity – ever? There was no perfect solution and I believe our trustees did an admirable job in representing and protecting our schools here in PEC. I have attached a link below showing that even our nation’s capital is experiencing the same thing we are – and a lot worse!

  7. Julia says:

    Mark wrote that PECI seems like an ideal place for a K-12. So I am guessing you were not involved in the process. PECI can not physically accommodate all the students they wish to transfer. A detailed analysis was done and shows they will be short space, toilets, never mind the play space which is a field (swamp), with no play ground equipment and has a enough space for children to spin around that is about it and they have to walk across a parking lot to get there, which is actually in contravention to legislation. They will also have to reduce high school programming to accommodate the K-6’s and they have not factored in classroom space for the French immersion programs. Never mind the plumbing, the asbestos, there will be no auditorium, one gym for 600 kids, and the list goes on. Plus I have said over and over again it does not address the fundamental issue of increasing enrollment in the high school panel, same problem different look. If we look at it just from the monetary perspective, which saddens me, it is cheaper to build a new 7-12.
    And on another note the review that was conducted was not transparent, not engaging, not community and most importantly not focused on the children (did not even engage them). There are far more creative innovative ways to address these issues. Our elected officials need to engage their constituents, I believe that is the democratic process.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    Considering that our trustees were looking at the possibility of having 6 out of 8 schools close here in PEC, I believe they did a wonderful job in limiting the damage to only one school – Pinecrest. Granted Queen Elizabeth will see change, but that change allows for the school to remain open without any of their younger students having to experience any change – plus it breaths a new life into PECI. Sophiasburgh PS has a real challenge ahead – but the possibilities are there for it to remain open.

    So instead of beating up on our trustees, maybe we should be congratulating them on a tough job well done. Don’t we wish that all levels of government did as well?

  9. Fred says:

    And just what more did you expect our trustees to do? They conducted the review and tough decisions had to be made. It’s not like they were desirous to close schools and upset folks. Elected positions can’t always satisfy everyone and often face situations beyond their control.

  10. Argyle says:

    Regardless of the outcome of this flawed ARC review, our trustees from PEC failed miserably. I trust come election time the voters in the County will vote in 2 new trustees who are passionate about representing the County schools and students at the public board and trustee level. Continuing with our current trustees will only lead to further decimation and decline of our schools here.

  11. Mark says:

    That’s right. And if you have a good facility like PECI,it seems ideal for a kindergarten to grade 12. It presents positives for young students moving forward and will build a stronger school and relationships.

  12. Dennis Fox says:

    The fact is that most of the County schools are very much under enrolled – and some kind of re-organization needed to take place. The Board covers a huge area – that being all of the County and Hastings and it needs to balance their budget which is totally determined by the number of students. I don’t defend the Board, but I am trying to understand what they have to deal with. I think the high school solution is the wrong one too, but it has worked in other areas – so who knows? The thing you need to remember is that the County is not a Board onto itself- if it were we could not afford to keep as many schools open. As far as why what board has more students – is a senseless argue. The public board doesn’t make the kids – they deal with what they have been given – which in fact is a lot fewer students and that number is dropping every year, at least in this part of Ontario. School closures and declining enrollment is not a simple problem to solve – it is the result of many factors, but the most obvious one is that young people are not having as many(if any) babies. Here in the County, that problem certainly exists mainly due to the lack of employment opportunities – and that isn’t the fault of the Board of Education.

  13. julia says:

    But they choose to close the schools with the highest enrollment so all your arguments are counter intuitive. Plus the biggest issue is high school enrollment and the bleed of students to Belleville schools. I never said that I did not want to close schools or recognize that enrollment declined, but this should have been a County solution. The solution will not effect systemic issues in the county, just a bandaid. As usual it was a divided issue in the county pitting communities against each other instead of working as a collective. As well if we have fewer children why is the catholic school busting at the seems and sonrise enrollment up. Does this also speak to the boards inability to retain and recruit students

  14. Dennis Fox says:

    Both the parents and community should be congratulated for standing up for their neighbourhood school. However, let’s be fair, the trustees did not create this problem of declining enrollment – people not having children did. This situation has existed for many years and in response to this situation, for at least the last 10 years or more the Ministry of Ed funded rural schools at a rate 50% higher than urban schools – meaning rural kids are funded $1200 more each year. Over the last 15 years elementary enrollment in rural schools across Ontario has declined by 70,000 kids! This additional funding was done to help rural schools to remain open, in the hope enrollment would improve – it hasn’t! What also needs to be remembered is that across this province approximately 60% of the taxpayers have no children in the system – meaning they either never had children or their kids have grown and are no longer in the system. The government and trustees have to also represent those taxpayers too. Closing a school is a sad and horrible thing, but heating and repairing a school where half the classrooms sit empty for years is also difficult to justify to all taxpayers – not just the ones who have kids that attend there. So take it easy on the trustees – they did the best they could being caught between a rock and a hard place.

  15. julia says:

    I totally understand that schools had to close and money had to be saved. But the model they choose will not solve the problems in the long run. Why is this about money and not education. The trustees approved ~800k to pave parking lots instead of investing in creative solutions for community hubs that may have changed the future of our schools. Or what about their 3 million dollar educational consultant?

  16. wevil says:

    Emily you are so right

  17. Emily says:

    They were in a tough spot and I expect given the blood letting they chose the best and least disruptive model. Everyone wants their school untouched but you have to realize financial realities. We can’t afford half populated schools.

  18. wevil says:

    Until you have been in their shoes you know not what you are talking about

  19. Julia says:

    Agree with Argyle and residents that have commented in our local paper, time for our trustees to resign since they did not represent the needs of the whole county, a plan for the future that would support all our children. They divided us up, did not listen to their constituents, were not transparent or engaging and have left a legacy that with negatively impact child safety and wellbeing.

  20. Argyle says:

    A big congratulations to the two school board trustees for PEC, your lack of representation and non support of residents opposed to the timelines and changes made to the county schools during the Arc process was outstanding. Thanks for selling us out .The lack of any strong voice in education issues or credible input on matters that effect the operation of schools in the County will,with time lead to more school closures here.

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