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An open letter to MPP Randy Hillier regarding school closures in Ontario

Dear Mr. Hillier,

I am writing to you today as a parent who has children that attend Selby Public School, a rural school in your riding. Recently we have learned that the Limestone District School Board has received a Long Term Accommodation Plan, which recommends closing our school as well as Enterprise PS, Tamworth PS, Centerville PS, Newburgh PS, four other rural schools in the area.

Over the course of your political career, you have often mentioned your respect for and desire to keep rural families, and communities thriving. Your rural constituents now need your help.

I am asking you to petition Ms. Kathleen Wynne and the Ministry of Education, to put a moratorium on school closures, not permanently, just until the time when a more reliable and accurate way is found to assess a school’s viability. Currently, the way that school boards compile their Long Term Accommodation Plan reports is seriously flawed.

School Boards, all across Ontario, not just the Limestone Board, are providing outdated and incorrect information to the companies preparing the LTAP, and these companies are basing their recommendations on that incorrect information.

Ameresco Asset Sustainability Group produced the 2016 Long Term Accommodation Plan for The Limestone District School Board. Information they used to make their recommendations was based on; the 2011 census, Facility Condition Index for all the schools, which was last done in 2012, and the Ministry of Education Guideline that if a school is under 67% utilized, it is classified as having surplus space.

Not one of the five schools within the LTAP, the schools Ameresco has recommended for closure, fall into the category of being underutilized. As well, within the last two years, many of these schools have had major upgrades and repairs, information that was not taken into account while producing this LTAP.

While doing research on previous LTAP’s I have found that the “guesses” for future enrolment and school utilizations, were very much incorrect. The last LTAP report I could find for the Limestone Board was from 2006. It was put together by Watson and Associates. They estimated that in 2015/16 the total enrolment for Greater Napanee schools would be 1,506 students, in actuality, the total elementary enrolment in Greater Napanee in 2015/2016 was 2,090 students, 584 more students than they estimated.

I have been emailing and writing letters to the Limestone Board, the Director of Education, and all our local media outlets, but, until the Limestone Board decides to conduct a Pupil Accommodation Review on Selby PS, Enterprise PS, Tamworth PS, Newburgh PS and Centerville PS, the Limestone Board will not act on our concerns. Our board will make the decision in the fall of 2017/18 to open a Pupil Accommodation Review on our schools, and unfortunately, if they do decide to proceed with a PAR, our schools will close. Nowhere in all my research have I found a school that has remained open after a PAR has been conducted.

This is why I am writing to you today. Myself, along with other concerned parents and community members are urging you to appeal to the Ministry of Education, The Director of Education Mitzie Hunter and Ms. Kathleen Wynne. The Limestone District School Board is just one of the Ontario School Boards following directives from the Ministry of Education. There are serious issues with how school boards all across Ontario are conducting their LTAP, and our children are paying the price for this.

I would be happy to share more information I have researched with you, either in person, by telephone or e-mail. I look forward to your action in this matter.

Sincerely,

Norah Brien

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