Public Board May Drop Open-Concept Schools

The Greater Essex County District School Board meets on September 19, 2017. Photo by Mark Brown/Blackburn News.

Open-concept schools may soon become a thing of the past for one local school board.

The Greater Essex County District School Board voted 6-2 Tuesday night to commission a report that will look into the feasibility of taking two of the board’s open-concept schools and transforming them to traditional closed-classroom schools.

Open-concept schools were the trend in school construction throughout the 1960s and 1970s, generally featuring a large classroom area with classrooms divided by nothing more than partitions. The report will cost $41,000 and detail all possible logistics and infrastructure involved in making the buildings closed-concept.

Board Vice Chairman Ron LeClair introduced the motion. He calls open-concept schools a failed experiment and adds that they create problems in learning for some students.

“There are students that are not successful because of the noise and the distractions that occur,” says LeClair. “Quite clearly when you go in these schools you see that these teachers have created barriers with whatever they can use to try to create some separation.”

The two open-concept schools involved are Sandwich West and Roseville.

Board trustees Alan Halberstadt and Jessica Sartori voted against the motion. Sartori says the main factor behind her decision was money.

“We know from going through accommodation reviews that can relate to our facility condition index in schools, and my concern is that we have that money for maintenance,” says Sartori.

Sartori says she may reconsider if the information in the report is favourable and would not cause undue financial strain.

The report is expected to detail the steps needed to make the changes happen at the two schools. It will be presented to the board by mid-December and the board will then decide how to move the process forward.