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Thread: Principles guiding the conversation,

  1. #1

    Default Principles guiding the conversation,

    How well do the following principles reflect what is important to you? Please share your suggestions, ideas or thoughts on the most important things you think should guide the conversation on school space and communities.

  2. #2

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    More information to consider
    Sector Planning - What exactly does this mean?
    It means that an extensive review must take place in all areas of the city to ensure the District has a clear picture of the current situation for all schools and some idea of what the space requirements will be for the future.

    This Sector Planning approach is grounded on six planning principles:
    1. Equitable access to quality learning environments and choice of programs
    2. Creative re-use of surplus space
    3. Efficient use of school space in sectors and retention of schools in aging neighbourhoods
    4. Accommodation and program needs met within sectors
    5. Capital investment contingent upon confirmation of long-term viability
    6. Proactive approach to environmental awareness and stewardship

    We want to use principles to guide this conversation where we explore the possibilities and challenges of school space as part of a complete and vibrant community.

  3. #3

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    2. Creative re-use of surplus space
    5. Capital investment contingent upon confirmation of long-term viability
    Rehabilitate schools that already exist, instead of building new ones in the suburbs and wondering what to do with old structures. Good schools anchor neighborhoods; families move to where their kids can go to school, and our core has awful schools.
    "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction" - Blaise Pascal

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McC DP View Post
    1. Equitable access to quality learning environments and choice of programs.
    I'm not entirely sure what equitable means in this context. I think the suggestion is that families who choose sprawl, areas with no schools, should have buildings constructed for them, filled with programming options. As part of that, families who choose sustainability, because they have disproportionate access to schools, should have things taken away from them.

    No, I don't agree with that.
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  5. #5

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    1. Equitable access to quality learning environments and choice of programs
    Does "access" mean "in the neighbourhood"? Also, there are many families that appreciate the value of a small school environment - is this part of the choice?

    2. Creative re-use of surplus space
    The problem here is the assumption of surplus space. I'll go into more detail in another thread.

    3. Efficient use of school space in sectors and retention of schools in aging neighbourhoods
    I would use adjectives like "mature" or "central" instead of "aging" personally, but this is nice to hear. I believe it's the first acknowledgement by EPSB that schools in these areas have importance.

    4. Accommodation and program needs met within sectors
    Fine, although pretty vague. Also, using sectors as the base for comparison allows a lot of wiggle room, since most sectors are fairly large areas. You could close schools in two or three adjacent neighbourhoods and still meet the requirements of the sector - too bad for those neighbourhoods though.

    5. Capital investment contingent upon confirmation of long-term viability
    OK, makes sense, but this can also be a vicious circle. Some schools seem to be on the review list almost every year. If you target a school for closure (sorry, "review") and at the same time refuse to do what are probably overdue renovations, then that school has two strikes against it. As I understand it, the capital plan is a real political issue every year, since school boards simply submit a prioritized list and then wait for the provincial goverment to approve or not. Too bad the boards don't just get a predictable amount of dollars to spend on capital projects as they see fit.

    6. Proactive approach to environmental awareness and stewardship
    Not sure exactly what this means or how it fits in to this discussion? Are we talking about LEED building principles? Or can this include things like transportation issues (creating extra school bus routes, preventing students from walking to a local school)?

    We want to use principles to guide this conversation where we explore the possibilities and challenges of school space as part of a complete and vibrant community.
    I hope so. My single biggest problem with the way school viability has been handled (so far) by EPSB is that is seems to happen in a vacuum; there is little regard or responsibility for community and civic issues beyond the classroom. I would love to see Edmonton Public step up and be a true partner, instead of setting the bar low by just looking at enrolment and monetary metrics.


    Cheers,

    - Nick

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    The Sun (believe it or not) offered a very good editorial about the need to preserve small neighbourhood schools in today's issue: http://www.edmontonsun.com/comment/e...93346-sun.html.

    "Which brings us back to the schools. When young families look for a new home, one of the first things they check out are the neighbourhood schools.

    "If there's no school, they look elsewhere. And those families already living there will start looking to move out, too.

    "And the downward spiral begins again. The biggest victims will be kids in low-income families who will be left behind."
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    More important than the "principles guiding the conversation" is that the conversation actually get started. In addition to stating their views (which I generally agree with so far), some participants in this forum have asked for clarification about what exactly they are being asked to comment on. A week later, there has been little further discussion and no input from anyone in a position to answer these questions. This consultation will be far more valuable if representatives of DP and/or the EPSB actually engage in the conversation, or at least indicate when they will be able to do so.

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    I'm very pleased with the new policy trustees are adopting in the area of early education. As president of a not-for-profit preschool society that leases space from the district, I hope that the sector review process will reflect the fourth point...

    The Board believes that:
    • The early years are critically important in providing a foundation for learning.
    • Child -centered, early learning opportunities that promote creativity contribute to
    school readiness and long-term educational success.
    • Exemplary play-based programming that provides early literacy and numeracy
    opportunities and is responsive to individual needs of the child contributes to
    academic attainment.
    • Strong partnerships between schools and preschool, Head Start, and child care
    programs in district buildings enhances transition to formal schooling and
    subsequent engagement of families in schooling.
    • Continued collaboration among schools, families and community are built through
    outreach, sharing of resources and joint participation.
    • Research and assessment data, used to identify strengths and needs and to promote
    innovative practice in the early years, is essential for effective early years
    programming.
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  9. #9

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    I had hoped people would be able to work with these principles, but I am pleased to provide the expanded supplemental information to assist with their assessments of these principles.

    The Edmonton Sun article referred to above is a good article because it provides the balance between challenges and opportunities, both within the effected communities but also the cascading effect to the city as a whole in the long run.

    Planning Principles Expanded
    Planning supports teaching and learning by providing all students with access to quality learning environments and program choices.

    • Equitable access to quality learning environments and choice of programs
    Students at all grade levels are entitled to equity of access to high quality modern facilities and a balanced range of regular, alternative and special programs regardless of where they live in the city.

    • Creative re-use of surplus space
    School space that is not needed for instruction still has value to the community. Consistent with Board Policies, the District will continue to seek out tenants and partners for the use of surplus school space that support the community in areas of child and family services, and the not-for-profit sector. This may involve other levels of government within a context that use of district space will be provided at no cost to the District. Examples include early learning partners such as Head Start groups, immigrant services, childcare providers, etc.

    • Efficient use of school space in sectors and retention of schools in aging neighbourhoods
    By reducing the amount of unused and unneeded space, the District will continue to work toward retention of schools in aging neighbourhoods.

    • Accommodation and program needs met within sectors
    The District will ensure that we have sufficient schools and programs in each sector to accommodate student demand, eliminating the need for students to travel great distances to access programs.

    • Capital investment contingent upon confirmation of long-term viability
    The investment of funds for upgrades will focus on projects at schools where the long-term viability of programming and student enrolment has been confirmed. The District will however, continue to responsibly maintain existing schools in order to ensure that all matters of life, health and safety are fully addressed.

    • Proactive approach to environmental awareness and stewardship
    The District will consider environmentally responsible approaches to distribution of space and resources within the District. The District will promote a proactive strategy to environmental awareness and stewardship of buildings and land.
    Last edited by Ian McC DP; 12-11-2009 at 08:54 AM.
    Ian McCallum
    Senior Associate, Dialogue Partners

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    ^Thank you for the clarifications. I'm getting the impression that the EPSB wants to keep as many schools as possible open by renting unused rooms to child care providers and community groups. If this is the case, I would consider it a positive development.

  11. #11

    Default Planning Principles

    Like most principles, they sound great but in application can justify a whole host of results that may not serve students and their families well.
    For example, what is a "quality learning environment"? How does the district define this? I can guarantee that parents would differ with the district and each other about what this entails.
    The principle about aging neighbourhoods essentially says "we will close some schools in aging neighbourhoods to retain some schools in aging neighbourhoods". Fine, but what of the neighbourhoods that lose active schools? What real support will be in place for these students and neighbourhoods after closure?

  12. #12

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    "• Equitable access to quality learning environments and choice of programs
    Students at all grade levels are entitled to equity of access to high quality modern facilities and a balanced range of regular, alternative and special programs regardless of where they live in the city." quoted from Ian McC DP

    I would feel more comfortable if this were rewritten to say: high quality modernized facilities. Your use of the word modern suggests that the older buildings have no value.


    It may also be useful to point out here that consistently building schools in the new neighbourhoods and closing schools in the old neighbourhoods is NOT a sustainable process. If one examines the individual school profiles, one will see that schools that were seen as necessary in the 1980's are now facing their own declining enrolments. Neighbourhoods are cyclical, but this is rarely accounted for.

    Some examples:

    Bannerman built in 1980 - no longer meets enrolment benchmark - 17.3 % enrolment decline since 2005 - 56% ACOL capacity

    Daly Grove built in 1989 - still meets enrolment benchmarks - 19.5% enrolment decline since 2005 - 69% ACOL capacity

    Fraser built in 1984 - 18.5% decline since 2005 - 64% ACOL capacity

    Sakaw built in 1980 - 12.5% decline since 2005 - 45% ACOL capacity

    T.D. Baker built in 1991 - 15.8% decline since 2005 - 79% ACOL capacity

    Kirkness built in 1983 - 11.7% decline since 2005 - 69% ACOL capacity

    LaPerle built in 1983 - 9% decline since 2005 - 56% ACOL capacity

    Lymburne built in 1984 - 26.7% decline since 2005 - 60% ACOL capacity
    Last edited by LSimpson; 27-11-2009 at 11:03 AM. Reason: should have been listed as a quote

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by LSimpson View Post
    • Equitable access to quality learning environments and choice of programs
    Students at all grade levels are entitled to equity of access to high quality modern facilities and a balanced range of regular, alternative and special programs regardless of where they live in the city.
    Does this mean that highly successful mature neighborhood schools like Belgravia or Glenora will be knocked down and replaced with modern versions?

    As to providing balance and equity of access, if somebody decides to park a caravan in an industrial park, does that mean a school has to be built for them? In the same way, if somebody decides to buy a house on the edge of town where there is no school, I would argue they have total equity of access. They can drive the car each day (something they are comfortable with, given where they have decided to live), and drop the kids off at the nearest partially empty school (of which we have a number throughout the city). If the parents want a school in walking distance, they have total equity of access today where-ever they live, for they can sell their property and purchase an affordable property close to a school that does have space.

    Perhaps a better principle will be:

    Equitable access to quality learning environments and choice of programs
    Edmonton is a modern city with world class infrastructure. Parents and prospective parents are encouraged to think carefully about where they decide to live. If living in a neighborhood where a school is in walking distance is desirable, parents are encouraged to consider moving to such a neighborhood, of which there are a number of, already in Edmonton City. Only when utilization rates on existing schools are are at acceptable levels, is it a sustainable option to build new schools.
    Last edited by moahunter; 27-11-2009 at 10:14 AM.

  14. #14

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    ^
    moahunter, I think "modernized" means keep the old buildings too but they deserve equal consideration for upgrading 80-year old boilers, etc., as well as access to new technology. John A. MacDougall is my favorite example of this. The original brick schoolhouse was built in 1912, and it was restored beautifully a few years ago, including adding an elevator for access. By contrast, Ritchie (also 1912 vintage) was boarded up for decades and used as a storage facility while students were confined to an attached structure that resembled a windowless strip mall. Needless to say no meaningful modernizations were ever done, and the school was closed a couple of years ago.

    I really like your point about access in new subdivisions. I completely agree that these new areas should not automatically take precedence over established neighbourhoods. One problem though is people do not have enough confidence that a neighbourhood school in an older area will not be closed, given the recent history of school closures. It's not easy for families just to pick up and relocate, so knowing that the local school will still be there for the longer term makes a big difference. It would be great if a school in danger of closing had a longer-term window (say three to five years) to try to turn things around. The current policy is to put it on a list in June, determine if its a target for closure in the fall, then make a final decision in the spring. So in less than 12 months a school can be closed, often to the surprise of the community.

  15. #15

    Default Build the Community

    3. Efficient use of school space in sectors and retention of schools in aging neighborhoods
    Efficient use of school space AND retention of schools in aging neighborhoods should be separate items. They are usually in conflict. I'm all for the retention of schools in aging neighborhoods. I'm all for efficient use of school space; however, not to the extent of getting rid of schools to save a little money. The value of a school in a neighborhood is great, even in aging neighborhoods, but is difficult to quantify. When children must be taken to schools outside their neighborhoods the sense of and function of neighborhoods is lost. The City of Edmonton won an award for their redo of Alberta Avenue (sidewalks, streets, poles, etc. on 118th). They want to build this community. These efforts, money and this award will be wasted if there aren't local schools for the Div I and II students to go to.

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