Across Ontario 146 schools may lock their doors for good over the next two years. Those closings would effect more than 150,000 students according to a report by People for Education.
Low enrollment is the force before the proposed school closings. In the larger cities students get still be close to another school but in rural areas those closings could have a devastating impact and not just for the children.
The Globe and Mail reports:
“It can become an accelerating issue, where a small town loses people and services and if it loses its schools, fewer families want to move there,” said Annie Kidder.
“Do we say to a small town, ‘No, sorry, it’s just too expensive?”’
School enrollments have decreased since 2002 by 14 per cent.
In 2008 16 schools were closed. This will be the last year for another 34 schools slated to be closed.
The closing of a school often means another school will be getting more programs. The smallest schools do not have the funding that they need to have extra programs. This is a difficult issue for school boards.
Some northern Ontario schools have to deal with so little funding that science departments haven’t enough. Some areas are eliminating middle schools sending their Grade 7 students straight into a high school environment or putting the students back into a elementary school setting.
According to the report by People for Education 145 schools in Ontario are undergoing Accommodation reviews.
The most northern schools in Ontario have the smallest school populations. The optimal school size according to researchers is between 600 to 700 students in secondary schools and under 400 in primary schools. While schools with larger populations appear on paper to have more success by economical standards research has shown that graduation rates are higher when school populations are smaller. Students are also more engaged and tend to participate in activities more often at the smaller sized schools.
People for Education is an independent parent-led organization. The group researches and provides information about Ontario schools to the public. In a phone interview with Executive Director Annie Kidder Digital Journal asked about the group’s concerns.
“The school closings have an effect across the board. We need to think about the total community that is effected. The Providence understands that there is an issue. They are doing a lot of talking about it. They understand the importance that schools should act as their community’s hub.”
The largest number of school closings are in the rural areas of the province. The closings are affecting both the elementary and secondary schools in Ontario.