Schools won't be closing

·2 min read

Politicians and parents in Lambton are breathing a little easier after the Ontario government will be keeping its moratorium on the closure of schools, which has been in place sincea 2017, but there will be a push for school boards to use the vacant space in existing schools.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce said partnerships could be developed between school boards, municipalities and non-profit organizations such as the YMCA to better use some of the vacant space within these schools.

This could be a benefit for many of the schools, which are currently operating under capacity. Dawn Euphemia School on Oil Heritage Road would mostly close if the moratorium on school closures would at any time be lifted. Dawn Euphemia has 121 students enrolled, just one of six elementary schools within Lambton Kent School District to have less than 150 students.

“This should have been there 25 years ago,” said Dawn Euphemia Township Mayor Al Broad. In the past, the township council has looked at the school as a good place for a public library but this idea was shot down. He feels it is good news for the Dawn Euphemia School and he looks forward to getting something else in the school, which can benefit not only Dawn Euphemia but also people in neighbouring communities.

Lambton Kent School Board has called on the provincial government to lift the moratorium and allow for the closure of these schools with low enrolment. The Ontario Public School Boards Association has called on the provincial government to lift the moratorium by the end of the current school year.

Lecce tabled new legislation at Queen Parks today, The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act. There are three pillars to this act, improving accountability for school boards, enhancing training for educators and building schools faster.

“We are taking action to refocus Ontario’s education system on what really matters: strengthening reading, writing and math skills,” said Lecce.

If passed, the legislation would allow the minister of education to set the priorities for student achievement, then school boards would be required to update parents on the progress.

“We are in support of any initiatives that improve student achievement and well being,” said Ontario Public Schools Board Association (OPSPA) President Cathy Abraham. “The OPSBA has long advocated for improved accountability and transparency in the delivery of public education.”

Abraham was critical of the provincial government saying her association and school boards must be properly consulted on details of important changes to the education system, something which did not take place as this legislation was formulated.

The Ontario government has said nearly 2,000 front-line educators will be hired. There will also be more than $693 million in base Grants For Student Needs funding, a 2.7 percent increase.

Blake Ellis, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Independent