Upper Canada District School Board Provides Comment on Ministerial Directive of June 28, 2017

Local school board encouraged by Ministry announcement on Rural & Northern Education

June 28, 2017 (Brockville, ON) – The Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) received notice from the Ontario Ministry of Education about the new steps it will be taking to update the Province’s approach to supporting rural and northern education.

A teleconference involving the Chairs of local school boards was hosted by the Minister of Education, Mitzie Hunter, this morning and presented a three-step strategy for what the Province believes will strengthen how local school boards provide effective programs while managing schools in unique geographical circumstances.

UCDSB Board Chair Jeff McMillan expressed optimism that the Ministry announcement was a “step in the right direction” for rural schools in Eastern Ontario. “We appreciate the acknowledgement by the Minister of Education that operating schools and providing quality education programs requires special consideration by the Province.”

The three-step strategy identified by the Ministry of Education includes:

· strengthening the Province’s pupil accommodation review process so that it remains inclusive of community and student perspectives;

· attending to the need for maintaining quality education through additional funding to the annual legislative grants provided by the Province to all local school boards, known as the Rural and Northern Education Fund (RNEF); and

· a focus on greater communication and collaboration between school boards, municipalities, and community partners so to creatively address the excess space in schools resulting from changes in the number of school-aged children that are in decline, especially in rural and Northern settings.

While the Ministry’s announcement identifies a need to renew the provincial approach to pupil accommodation reviews, the Minister reassured all school boards that school boards will not have to reconsider past decisions relating to the closure of schools prior to this announcement. Board Chair McMillan felt that this will allow all school boards, including the UCDSB, to move forward beyond the difficult dialogue of accommodation reviews and to set our focus and energies for serving and sustaining the schools that the Board has committed to operate into the foreseeable future. “The Minister’s announcement recognizes and honours the important role that locally-elected Trustees have in addressing the specific needs of their communities,” stated McMillan.

The UCDSB will be quickly seeking clarity on the Ministry’s commitment to provide additional funding, in the form of the Rural and Northern Education Fund, as part of the annual legislative grants provided by the Province to all local school boards. “Clearly, the Province has heard the unique challenges that rural school boards face as it relates to sustaining a well-rounded educational experience for our students,” commented McMillan. “All school districts that identify with a rural or Northern reality recognize that additional funds for improving programs and support services are always welcome news by Trustees and the local community.” Further information will be forthcoming to all school boards that will clarify how this new funding will be allocated.

The third component of today’s announcement relates to how school boards and communities can work more closely together so to more effectively respond to the best interests of community members. McMillan indicated that he sees an immediate fit between this portion of the announcement and what the Board of Trustees initiated this past Spring given their focus on community outreach. “In April and May 2017, our Board engaged in early discussions about community outreach,” commented McMillan, “especially considerations for following up on a number of offers by local communities to partner with us as a means of creatively engaging the use of excess space in our schools.” The Ministry’s announcement centered specifically on revising the Community Planning & Partnership Guidelines, which offer guidance and direction to school boards for sharing planning information with community stakeholders.

“Today’s announcements, when coupled with the Ministry of Education’s recent funding announcement of over $52 million in capital improvements for our local schools, amounts to good news for the Upper Canada District School Board,” explained McMillan. “We look forward to using these opportunities as our Board continues to serve our students and rural communities into the future.”

For more information, please contact:

Jeff McMillan
Chair
Upper Canada District School Board
(613) 340-5515

(Posted June 28, 2017)

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Contact Information
Jeff McMillan, Chair
Phone: 613-340-5515