Education workers with the Upper Canada District School Board (UCDSB) are gearing up for a fight to preserve the quality of education in the region and quality of life in smaller communities, both of which are under threat from the board’s plans to close up to 29 of its public schools. Sixteen are targeted for closure by June 2017.
Education assistants, custodians, school administrators and other support staff with UCDSB warn of serious negative consequences for students, families and communities if the closures go ahead. They are organizing with allies to call on the provincial government for changes to schools’ funding formula so that schools can be protected as valuable community assets.
“We understand the financial pressures that have led to these proposed closures, but we don’t believe the board recognizes how harmful they will be, or has explored all the alternatives,” said Sue Hanson, president of Local 5678 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents education workers at UCDSB.
Hanson met with UCDSB earlier this month to learn more about the proposed closures.
“As workers at the heart of the system, we base our opposition to the closures on our deep knowledge about the vital role that our schools play in our communities,” she said.
The union’s members will base their defence of the region’s schools on the following:
- Many students will have to travel further every day to get to school; some may have more than an hour’s travel each way by school bus.
- Schools that remain open will become overcrowded with new enrolments.
- Children and young people risk being “warehoused” in overcrowded schools.
- Up to ten child care centres operating in schools will be closed, with no provisions to create new spaces or accommodate families’ child care needs locally.
- Programs that operate outside regular classroom hours – from recreation programs to summer day camp to sporting events – can no longer be hosted in schools, threatening community life.
- Business and municipalities will feel the economic impact as families move to be closer to schools; parents are forced to leave work or leave their communities for child care; and good jobs are lost as schools close.
“We will insist that the board take into account all the ways that schools are woven into the fabric of the community. Then we will urge them to join us in lobbying the provincial government for better funding for our schools so that they can be retained as assets for the community,” affirmed Hanson.
CUPE has long advocated for improvements to the school funding formula, which fails to account for all the people required for our community schools to provide the complete education that students deserve.
“A flawed formula is at the root of school closures. Only the provincial government can provide funding that properly accounts for the real needs of our children and communities,” she concluded.
“It takes a whole school to educate a child.”