June 26, 2012     

Efforts Continue to Revitalize Public Education

The District School Board of Niagara is continuing to move forward with a comprehensive long term plan to review and revitalize public education in the Niagara region. This fall, the DSBN will embark on the second step of a three stage Facilities Planning Report. The report, originally received by Trustees in the spring of 2011, represents a measured, strategic approach to investigate opportunities to improve the educational experience for students.  

In moving forward with the report, Trustees voted to initiate accommodation reviews in: 

  • Central St. Catharines (Maywood, Memorial and Alexandra Public Schools) 
  • East and South Lincoln (Vineland, Maple Grove, Jordan and Campden Public Schools) 
  • Port Colborne and Fort Erie (Port Colborne High School, Ridgeway-Crystal Beach High School, Fort Erie Secondary School) 

Accommodation Reviews represent an important planning tool for school boards to enhance student success and counteract the impact of declining enrolment. From 2001-2011, elementary enrolment declined by over 7,800 students, and is projected to fall by a further 3,000 students by 2021. Although not as pronounced, high school enrolment has followed a similar pattern, declining by more than 2,100 students since 2001. Secondary enrolment is expected to drop by another 2,500 students by 2021.  

Currently, the DSBN has over ten thousand surplus student spaces. These are spaces for which the Board receives no funding. “Paying to light, heat and maintain older buildings that are not being fully used places a huge strain on the Board’s financial resources,” says Kevin Maves, Chair of the Board. “We believe these funds would be best directed towards supporting student learning.”  

The efficient use of space allows the DSBN to reduce the need for double and triple split grades/courses, increase the number of clubs and extra-curricular activities offered at schools, and improve and expand desired programs such as full-day Kindergarten and French Immersion.   

Potential strategies to reduce surplus spaces and address aging buildings may include consolidating some schools, renovating existing buildings and even building new schools. Examples of new construction resulting from accommodation reviews include Crossroads Public School in Niagara-on-the-Lake and the soon-to-be-built Diamond Trail Public School in Welland.  

“It is important to stress that Accommodation Reviews are conducted in an open and transparent fashion. Community consultation is an important aspect of the process and there will be many opportunities for students, parents and community members to ask questions and provide input,” says Dale Robinson, DSBN Vice-Chair.  

Over the coming months, Board staff will begin to assemble the Accommodation Review Committees (ARC). Each committee will undertake an in-depth study of each area’s schools and provide advice and recommendations that will help guide Trustees in their decision making. Each ARC will include community members, municipal representatives, parents and DSBN staff. Committees examining the future of high schools will also include secondary students. All ARC meetings will be open to the public, and the public will also have an opportunity to provide feedback during scheduled public input meetings.