The focus of my report this evening will be the long range planning exercise our Board has undertaken for the past two years. The primary mandate of a school board is the delivery of programs and student services through the control and management of public schools within its jurisdiction. A number of crucial issues are now impacting the ability of the Board to fulfill this mandate.
At the time of amalgamation, the enrolment of the Board was 24,567 students. As of September 30, 2014, the enrolment was 13,264 students. This represents a decline of 46% over an 18 year period. To compound this issue, our school facilities now have too much capacity for the population we serve. Sixty percent of our school facilities now have 40% or greater excess capacity.
To address these issues, the Cape Breton Victoria Regional School Board released a planning framework to the public in April 2013. This planning process, Looking Inward, focused on system sustainability, educational facilities and potential grade level configurations. A total of 32 scenarios were provided for public review and input based on declining enrollment and facility requirements. From this process, an additional 50 scenarios were received from school advisory councils, school administrations and the public. Using this input, a series of proposals were developed and incorporated in a document released in April 2014, Looking Inward - Disposition of Scenarios to Family of Schools Suggested Solutions. These proposals detailed projected enrollments for each family of schools along with building capacities within these families. Student accommodation study groups with representation from each school, within the family, carefully deliberated on these proposals and presented their reports to their communities before making recommendations to the Board for consideration. In addition, a number of focus groups, information sessions and public meetings were held to provide more opportunities for input. The final document for this process can be found on our Board website.
Grade level reconfiguration was also a significant part of these discussions. In January 2015, the Board accepted a staff recommendation to change the grade level configuration for schools. In September 2015, our grade level configurations for schools will be elementary, grades P-5; middle school, grades 6-8; and high school grades 9-12. Existing P-9 facilities will become P-8 and existing P-12 and 7-12 facilities will have a middle school within a school for grades 6-8. The transition plan for September is outlined on our website and our lead team continues to work with our schools and staff in this process.
Coincident with the public consultation process in our Board, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development released a school review policy on October 17, 2014. The purpose of this school review policy was to ensure the engagement of communities in the process and the opportunity for input in proposed solutions. As outlined in this policy, all school boards in Nova Scotia are now required to develop a Long Range Outlook. “The Long Range Outlook provides valuable information about the changing circumstances of schools and the school community.” This document is to cover a 10 year period and must be reviewed annually and made available to the public no later than April 30, 2015. Our Board’s Long Range Outlook is being presented publically this evening and will be posted on our school board website.
It should be noted that the completion of the Long Range Outlook is not school review. The next step is a staff report to the Board that would make recommendations. The Board needs to carry out school review to enable any closures. If the Board decides to identify a school or group of schools for review, the School Review Policy will be followed. More information on the new School Review Policy may be accessed on our Board’s website.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the dedicated work of our Director of Operations, Mr. Paul Oldford, as the lead in this process, and also the valuable support provided by our facilitator, Mr. Jim Burton. Our School Advisory Councils, principals and communities have devoted endless hours and provided important input to the process. A final thank you to our Communications Officer, Ms. Michelle MacLeod, who has provided, and will continue to provide, the coordination of input and concerns from our schools and communities on our Long Range Plan.
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