WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT SCHOOL CLOSURES IN ONTARIO SO FAR?
When school closures are announced in Ontario, their main purpose is to consolidate students into fewer institutions and allow all students to have more access to activities and opportunities. That is a solid argument so long as it is proven valid, and not overtaken by the negative effects of students having to, or not being able to, acclimatize to new surroundings, or lose accessibility by having to travel much further for education.
The Ontario Alliance Against School Closures, with the help of many others, was able to bring a moratorium to school slosures in Ontario. What is yet unclear is how these school closures that already happened had an effect on students that were impacted.
(PUPIL ACCOMMODATION GUIDELINES)
The Pupil Accommodation Guidelines is a Ministry of Education document that is central to the school closures issue in Ontario. It has undergone a number of changes and revisions in the last little while. There has been two PARGs that have been released in the last four years, one in 2015 and a revised, post-consultation copy in 2018.
One change in the 2015 report that is of interest, especially surrounding the rural vs. urban debate, is that it removed two key values that should be considered in school closure deliberations from its previous document. Those are:
Value to the Community
Value to the Local Economy
The two reports can be found at the links here:
RURAL vs. URBAN
The issue of school closures in Ontario is also one that enlivens that Rural vs. Urban debate? Why? Simply because many of the schools that were closed, and students that were impacted, were from rural Ontario. This only makes the issue ever-more complicated as, by nature, rural students live further away from their new schools and presumably are more prone to longer travel times to their new schools.
What is more is that with the loss of schools in rural communities, there exists a risk for an overall loss of sense-of-community, which is apparent in many of our rural areas. This is something that needs more study, it is something that could negatively affect not just our students, but their families and extended communities as well.
THE QUESTION OF MENTAL HEALTH
Imagine you are a student who has begun their education at their community school. A year later, you are told that you are required to move to a new, much-larger school where you will have a ton of new opportunities. Your school is now much bigger. There are more people you don't know, and everything seems different than before.
How do you handle the change? Would you quickly adapt to the environment or are there risks and issues that prevent you from feeling comfortable for an extended period of time?
There is a chance that these transitions have gone incredibly well and students are now receiving a superior form of education. We think that would be fantastic news to hear. What we are worried about is if the opposite has occurred. That is why we want to better understand this mental health aspect to the School Closures issue. We owe it to our students.
To do so, we need your help.
Are you a parent of a student that was affected by the school closures? Please reach out and let us know how the transition went?
Are you an educator that had first hand experience with a school closure in Ontario? What did you see? Please let us know below.
SCHOOL CLOSURES IN ONTARIO:
EXISTING WORK THAT HAS BEEN DONE
Post Consolidation Report
Post Consolidation Report
As part of their ongoing work in trying to better understand the effect of school closures on Ontario families, the OAASC issued a survey for affected families and students. The goal of the survey was to understand how school closures had an impact on those directly affected, and focused on a wide range of issues.
The survey was completed by 127 students and 187 parents that had voluntarily completed the survey on the OAASC website. The full document can be seen in the links below: