School closures left to trustees

By Nick Greenfield

The fate of Centretown schools, which was to be decided by community working groups, will be left to the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board after all.

And after months of meetings, studies and speculation, the community working group set up to advise the school board on closures has recommended that no schools be closed in Centretown. The group released its report earlier this week and will present their study to trustees at a meeting Nov.10.
The community reports will be studied by school board staff which will make recommendations on Nov. 24. The final decision by trustees will be made public Dec. 21.

Earlier speculation on school closures in the Centretown area focused on McNabb Park school, Elgin Street Public school, Centennial school and Cambridge Street public school.

The group based its report on three main points that call for the Ministry of Education to re-evaluate its formulas for school closures. It recommends a reduction in the calculation of excess capacity, changes in how educational space is calculated and funded, as well as further study leading to better informed decision making.

“We need a real study,” says Bill Filleter, co-chair of the Elgin Street Public School Council and member of the working group. “We’re parents who just had six weeks of hell. We’re not planners, we’re just doing the best we can.”

Filleter’s group consists of parents, community leaders and board-hired facilitators. It looked at 11 elementary schools including the four Centretown schools. Despite a minority in the group who thought they should make specific closure recommendations, Filleter says the group’s report presents a united front.

“I read in the paper there was a minority group report, but that just sends mixed feelings,” he says. “We had to come out as a strong group.”

It wasn’t easy, says Filleter, adding the group was forced to work with inadequate and conflicting information with unreasonable time constraints.

While the group recognized the need to take drastic measures to deal with the pressures on the education system, it concluded it was impossible to decide which Centretown schools should close.

But in a technically and politically driven debate, the impact of school closures on the community has been overlooked, says Filleter.

“It’s going to just kill Centretown if we start just outright closing without looking at the community.”