This PACE update includes several items to bring you up to date on the activities of the past few weeks, and highlight the latest news regarding NEW Ministry guidelines for school closures.
1. PACE Round Table Meeting Nov 26 2014
A good number of PACE members gathered to review our key accomplishments and outline next steps. It was a very positive meeting as we discussed the high profile that education matters were given in the recent election, and the vocal support that the North Bruce Peninsula community has expressed to support our schools in Tobermory and Lions Head.
At this time, no Bluewater schools have been formally identified for closure. The Bluewater District School Board is holding off on any announcements until the new Ministry guidelines for closing schools are released (more on that in Item #2!).
So, we find ourselves in a bit of a “wait and see” situation as our NBP schools may or may not have to undergo an Accommodation Review. We do not know what the new process will entail … nor when such process will initiate.
Therefore, we turned our attention to discussing what types of actions we CAN be taking as we await the announcement of proposed school closures in our Board. There was much lively discussion about the positive attributes of St Edmunds Public School and Bruce Peninsula District School. One member in attendance eloquently expressed that we should change the conversation – rather than articulating the ‘problem’ of having a ‘deficit of students’, we should emphasize the positive outcomes and strengths that our schools bring to Bruce Peninsula students and communities. We decided to initiate a positive communications campaign, while continuing our promotion of bigger picture solutions to the provincial approach to school funding and support for rural schools. (More on that in Item #3!)
2. Opportunity to comment on NEW school closing process – TIGHT TIMELINE
Last week it was made public that the Ministry of Education intends to release later this month its new “Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines (PARG)” that govern the local school board process to close schools. People for Education has prepared an excellent overview at this link:
The Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) is coordinating the preparation of a formal response. PACE members are working with the Municipality of North Bruce Peninsula to prepare input to the AMO submission. Members of the public may also comment directly … one source tells us that they are accepting feedback until December 18th.
To provide feedback directly to the Ministry, contact Grant Osborn: Grant.Osborn@ontario.ca; Mathew Thomas: Mathew.P.Thomas@ontario.ca, or Cindy Ryder-Davis: Cindy.Ryder-Davis@ontario.ca
Since its formation, PACE has indicated that the school closure process is problematic as it pits communities against each other and emphasizes economics over student and community well-being. The new guidelines seem to be aimed at making it easier – and faster – to move quickly to close schools.
3. PACE project updates: a) positive communications campaign and b) PACE research proposal
a) Megan Myles and Jennifer Barratt Parker met to brainstorm a framework for the positive communications campaign that was proposed at the PACE round table meeting. Megan has crafted a summary document to get us started, and we are seeking volunteer support to help us accomplish several ideas:
– writing up North Bruce Peninsula education success stories to share in the Peninsula Press and regional media as well as on Facebook and social media;
– interviewing and featuring reflections from NBP graduates who have ventured into a range of fields both close to home and further afield; and,
– creating short video stories about the experiences and successes in NBP schools and communities.
We hope to feature stories around key success themes such as Environmental Education (Outers, ECO school, Environmental High Skills Major), Integrated Learning (project based learning, UNESCO school themes, cross panel approaches, community member involvement, Co-op courses), Healthy Students (cafeteria, commitment to physical education, mental well-being, inclusive school), Success for All (academic, personal, developmental, extracurricular opportunities) .. and so on.
If you would like to join our positive communications campaign, please drop us a note at our PACE e-mail: email@example.com
b) PACE members continue to make progress on our research proposal, building connections with the universities and other organizations tackling similar topics in their work advocating for rural schools and communities. More to come …
So, with the Ministry Guidelines still in final consultation, we do not have a firm date for when we might have official word about whether any of our schools will be identified for closure. Our understanding is that once the ministry guidelines are final (say late December), the Bluewater DSB will need/want to review their own local guidelines to ensure they are in compliance with the Ministry direction, before they announce specific schools to be closed. It may be as soon as late January or February.
In the meantime, we aren’t sitting still – and welcome additional energy and support to make progress on our initiatives. The holidays may be a fantastic time to tap into the success stories from recent grads who will be returning to the Bruce from wherever they are pursuing their chosen path… Please comment here, or send us a note to indicate your interest!
This PACE update was prepared by Jennifer Barratt Parker.