School accommodation reviews have got to be high on the list of superintendents and trustees’ least favourite jobs. Granted, if there is a shiny new school on offer, there’s a chance for a true win-win outcome. More often though, the entire process is sadly predictable and more aptly characterized as “lose-lose.”
• There are impassioned presentations and protests from the school community to save the school under review.
• When two or more schools are “contending” for closure, bitterness develops between the two school communities as attempts to save one are seen as throwing the other under the bus.
• Passion turns to anger as, regardless of the level of protest or the perceived quality of arguments, the decision is made and the school is closed. School trustees and senior administration, of course, bear the brunt of this anger.
• Whether or not community fears are realized, the sense of betrayal lingers.
In remote and rural communities, where a school can be a lynchpin to the continued viability of a town and busing distances can become extreme, both the stakes and the fallout are even higher.
No wonder school districts across the country are searching for a better way to address the real, practical dilemma that dwindling enrolment, aging buildings and stretched budgets present. How can we tackle the school closure issue more collaboratively, more fairly, more creatively? How can we end up with more “win-win” outcomes and fewer angry, disillusioned community members? After all, we all want thriving kids, thriving schools, and thriving communities.
In this issue, our contributors explore some different ways of thinking about, and undertaking, school accommodation review. From a first look at Nova Scotia’s new school review process (p. 21), to a nine-years-later look at Manitoba’s school closure moratorium (p. 24), to an innovative integration of online and in-class course delivery in Newfoundland (p. 12), we examine what’s being tried across the country and how it’s working out. Because, as Planning Professor Mark Seasons and his co-writers put it (p. 16), “There must be a better way.”
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Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, June 2017