“A sham” is what the Save Kingston City Schools coalition (SKCS) is calling the process to consider the closure of downtown high schools.
The Program and Accommodation Review Committee (PARC) is considering the fate of three city schools: KCVI, LCVI and QECVI. At a meeting last night the PARC recommended 9 proposals, 5 of which call for the closure of KCVI, one of which calls for the closure of LCVI, and three of which call for keeping all three schools open.
The five proposals to close KCVI were forwarded anonymously by email to members of the PARC at 4pm, the same night of the meeting, and there was no discussion of their merits. One of the proposals to close KCVI involves closing QECVI and building a new school on the recently revitalised site of the Memorial Centre.
KCVI has the highest academic performance in the city. Of the three schools, only KC is fully enrolled and has an annual operational surplus ($392, 074). LCVI has an operational loss of $919,884 a year, compared to an operational loss of $613,599 for QECVI. The Ministry of Education has recently called for closing or consolidating underutilised schools, so the inclusion of KCVI, which is at 98.7% capacity, seems anomalous to many commentators. KC, like the other two schools, has about 300 students who walk to the school.
It would cost $25,827,751 to renovate KCVI, a historic building much neglected by the school board. (Over the period 2005-2011, out of a total of $42, 399, 014, only $9,824 – for dust collection — was allocated to KCVI from the ‘Good Places to Learn Funds,’ compared to $817, 774 for QE and $620,352 for the LC/Old Calvin Park Building.) At $32,935,226, LCVI/Calvin Park would be the most expensive of the three schools to repair; QE would cost $21,596,305.
“I feel betrayed,” said Lindsay Davidson, a parent representing KCVI on the PARC. “The public input has overwhelmingly been in favour of a 3-school solution, but the ‘Survivor’ mentality of the process has meant that instead a successful school is being targeted and cannibalised.”
Commentators have observed the same flawed process at the North PARC which is considering the fate of elementary schools. SKCS is concerned that the outcomes of these uncoordinated review processes will leave downtown Kingston without any elementary or secondary schools, a disaster for city neighbourhoods.
“The PARC has not discussed any of the public input into the process, not even the ideas of the recent May 15 public meeting which was attended by over 600 people at QE,” said Jason Trueman of SKCS. “13 of the 28 members of the PARC are School Board employees and are limited in their ability to dissent from senior staff recommendations,” he added. “On top of that, the Director of Education does not attend the meetings. This is a defective process.”
SKCS points out that the PARC has a municipal representative, but the PARC meets the same night as City Council, and a motion to change the meeting dates to enable the representative to attend was rejected by the School Board. The PARC did not discuss a report prepared by City staff which analysed the importance of downtown schools for City policy objectives such as sustainability and the vitality of the downtown. The City report also provided examples of successful partnerships between schools and other organisations that allowed schools to stay open. SKCS has emphasised the potential for partnerships and development opportunities to save all three schools.
“Peterborough is losing its downtown high school in a similarly flawed process,” said Michael Green of SKCS. “We were warned the same thing would happen in Kingston but we hoped that a constructive approach was possible. Everyone feels very disappointed.”