Friday, April 18, 2008

School Closures

Doing the right thing isn't always popular or easy. Just ask the Toronto District School Board. They've started a firestorm by proposing to close some schools that have pitifully low attendance. While it is never easy on a child to change schools and it is never easy for a neighbourhood to lose its school, it is sometimes necessary. The Toronto Star has good coverage here and here. Critics are comparing this to the mean old days of Mike Harris. Here's the critical difference: public consultation. While the TDSB does have a list of schools which are underpopulated, it is not about to go around closing every single one. At least, that's what I hope will come out of the public consultation. Obviously, it would make a lot of sense to close one of two underpopulated schools in an area. It would be disastrous to close both. I also hope that the TDSB takes the long view of things and realizes that certain schools may be underused today, but might not be tomorrow. It will be cheaper in the long run to keep a school going than to try to open one in the future. In the end, a few closed schools will help ease the perennial budget crisis and will help to use taxpayers money more efficiently. However, the margin for error on this is small and no matter what happens, people are going to be justifiably upset. As I said, doing the right thing isn't always easy.

Side Note: Many of the schools being closed house other schools within them. I assume that these schools will be evaluated separately and if possible moved even if there host is closed. For example, I assume Toronto will still need a school for deaf children even if Davisville PS closes. As a product of two different alternative schools(APS and Quest), they have a special place in my heart. I also know that in many cases there is not a correlation between attendance at the alternative school and its host institution. In some cases, alternative schools may underperform and be forced to close themselves. In other cases the host is weak but the alternative school is full. Once again, public consultations should make this clear to the board if they aren't aware of this already.

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