More School Closures Likely At Public School Board

GECDSB Trustee Jessica Sartori attends a meeting put on by the Downtown Residents Association in Windsor on October 6, 2016 regarding the possible closure of core area schools. (Photo by Ricardo Veneza)

A long-term look at the pressures facing the Greater Essex County District School Board shows 6,500 empty student spaces — likely meaning more school closures in the board’s future.

Jessica Sartori, the trustee for Wards 1, 2 and 9 with the board, asked for the board-wide report after administration recommended closing three schools in the city’s core area in May.

The report has solidified her opinion: the board needs to do a better job chasing local partners to create community hubs at under-capacity schools.

“We have some more work that we need to do in order to try to find community partners to try and fill these empty student spaces,” says Sartori.

There is $856,000 in provincial funds up for grabs to retrofit schools to better accommodate community hub plans — an initiative Sartori is keen for the board to exploit.

Sartori also sees working more closely with area municipalities as part of the solution.

“We really need to be able to figure out how we’re going to have an initiative where we’re working together on a regular basis,” says Sartori. “I wouldn’t say that that has happened yet.”

The report shows while Canada’s population grew nearly 12% from 2001-2011, but the elementary aged population defined as 4 to 13 years old declined by 7%.

The Windsor-Essex area was impacted by similar demographics.

“Unfortunately, at this point, school closures are going to have to be part of the equation, but we really need to look at them as a last resort and do whatever else we can,” says Sartori.

New recommendations to deal with the board’s empty student spaces are expected to make it to trustees in December.