GECDSB Wants Accommodation Review Overhaul

Community members attend the May 17, 2016 meeting of the Greater Essex County District School Board to speak to the proposed accommodation review that could have seen Hugh Beaton, Queen Victoria and Prince Edward public schools closed. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

The Greater Essex County District School Board is foregoing a review of seven city centre schools that could have seen three of them closed.

Instead, trustees want administration to come back to the board in six months with a system-wide strategy for accommodation reviews.

Trustee Jessica Sartori brought forward the motion which was backed unanimously by trustees. She hopes the new strategy will mean better co-operation with community partners.

“Obviously our primary role is in education, but I think as well we can play a part in community development,” says Sartori.

The trustee for west and south Windsor couldn’t support the proposed review and feels a change in how the board addresses accommodation reviews is needed.

“I don’t want the board to be going neighbourhood to neighbourhood considering whether or not we should close schools. I think we need a board-wide strategy that’s principled and speaks to our values as a board,” says Sartori.

Queen Victoria Public School Parent Council member Anastasia Adams, also the wife of Windsor City Councillor Rino Bortolin, says the proposed school closures would drive families out of the city core.

“We’re working so hard, the city [City of Windsor] is working hard to intensify those neighbourhoods and no one is going to stay if there aren’t places for their kids to go to school,” says Adams.

She’s in full support of the school board and the city becoming stronger partners.

“The city and the school board need to get on the same page and to work together,” says Adams. “If the school isn’t at capacity then find somebody else to be in there. There are tons of newcomer groups or other community agencies that could partner in the school.”

Dougall Avenue Public School area resident Matt Wachna isn’t convinced the board is going to come back with something much different in six months.

“To me this is just going to be a six month deferral,” says Wachna. “My prediction is Hugh Beaton will be off the list, but then we’ll be attacking the lower income schools.”

The vote on the proposed accommodation review never happened as none of the trustees would move the motion.

The public board proposed the accommodation review of Dougall Avenue, F.W. Begley, Hugh Beaton, John Campbell, King Edward, Prince Edward and Queen Victoria public schools as it tries to reduce its empty student spaces in light of the province changing how it funds school boards. The seven city centre schools have a combined 987 empty student spaces for a utilization rate of 73% which is projected to drop to 64% by 2025.