Rural School Boards

Engaging Communities

The government recently announced it will be launching an engagement on new supports for education in rural and remote communities, led by three Parliamentary Assistants, MPPs Granville Anderson, Grant Crack, and Lou Rinaldi. The Parliamentary Assistants will gather feedback across Ontario on how we can strengthen rural education and ensure local students have equal access to a full range of learning opportunities. The details of this engagement process are still being finalized and will be available here in the coming weeks.

Support for Rural School Boards

Ontario is investing more in rural schools than ever before.

Overall, annual funding for rural school boards in 2016-17 is projected to increase by $1.1 billion, or over 43 per cent since 2002-03. Students enrolled in rural boards in 2016-17 are funded at an average of about $12,500 per pupil — about $1,000 more than their peers in urban boards.

Students in Rural School Boards

In Ontario, it is estimated that about 15 per cent of all students in the publicly funded education system are enrolled in rural school boards. Since 2013, the Province has increased annual funding for rural boards by nearly $200 million or six per cent.

The Ministry of Education is committed to ensuring that all students, including students in rural Ontario, have an equal opportunity for an excellent education.

At A Glance: Support for Rural School Boards

In 2016–17, rural school boards will benefit from:

  • Increased funding to support the higher cost of purchasing goods and services for small and rural school boards.
  • Increased funding for transportation which supports the greater distances travelled in rural areas.
  • Additional supports for the heating, lighting and maintenance costs of excess spaces in schools that are a considerable distance from the other schools of the board.
  • New supports for special education funding.
  • Funding for additional principals in schools that combine elementary and secondary students, depending on enrolment levels.
  • Funding to support a minimum number of teachers and early childhood educators for remote schools with small enrolment.
  • Secure access to the provincial Virtual Learning Environment and eLearning courses, supporting equitable and timely access to credit courses that otherwise might not be available close to a student's home.
  • Investments in a multi-year program to improve access to broadband connectivity in schools.

School Consolidations and Joint-Use Opportunities

School boards are consulting with the communities to find the best path forward to maintain the best programming options for students.

In some cases, this involves school boards working together to ensure that students are provided with the best possible classroom experience through school consolidations. This allows boards to offer a more diverse range of programs and services to students. In other cases, two or more school boards can work together to share space in one building which may broaden the range of programs and services available to students.

School consolidations and the shared use of school facilities, can bring many benefits including:

  • Improved facilities
  • Broader programming
  • More extra-curricular activities, including sports teams
  • Better support for student achievement, well-being and equity
  • Greater social opportunities

The Ministry of Education has committed $600,000 to assist school boards in pursuing joint-use school opportunities between school boards.

School Consolidation Experience Studies

In 2015, independent and in-depth case studies were undertaken on three consolidations.

Overall, it was found that:

  • The initial fears of individuals impacted by consolidation/reorganization were allayed.
  • There were perceived benefits particularly around expanded academic programming.
  • Students adapted quickly to their new environment.

An overview of these case studies explains their findings.

Community Hubs

Schools are natural community hubs that bring together a range of needed services under one roof to better serve their communities. One way that school boards can use excess space in viable schools is to partner with community organizations. The Province is providing nearly $90 million to support boards in maximizing the use of school space by community partners and the public.

In November 2016, $50 million was announced to support retrofits of available school space for use by new community partners, or improve accessibility for schools to enable community use.

In the event that an original school location that housed community partnerships is closed or sold, capital funding will be available for replacement space for eligible community partners.

Supported by new rules for surplus property, surplus schools have also been identified as potential community hubs in some communities.

Pupil Accommodation Reviews

To make an informed decision about changes to student accommodations, school boards may engage in what is called a pupil accommodation review.

During such a review, school boards will typically identify a list of schools being considered for accommodation changes. It is important to note that a school’s inclusion on this list does not indicate that a school will be closed or consolidated. Rather, the list is intended to support discussions and consultations with the community about the best path forward to support local students.

In 2015, the ministry revised the Pupil Accommodation Review Guideline into a more effective tool that increased transparency and introduced new requirements for boards to consult with municipal and community organizations, providing an opportunity to discuss potential impacts to local communities and economies.

The guideline sets a standard that school boards must meet when creating their local accommodation review policies. The revised guideline ensures that communities have the opportunity to provide meaningful input on accommodation decisions. In particular, boards are required to hold public meetings, and trustees are required to hear community input on matters related to pupil accommodation.

The updated guideline also takes child care into consideration. In the event that a school with child care spaces closes, the ministry has a process through which school boards can request funding to build replacement spaces in the new school.

Additional information related to pupil accommodation reviews is available, including an FAQ, a description of administrative reviews, and a guide to pupil accommodation reviews, which describes what happens when a school board is considering a school closure or consolidation.