It’s been a busy week for the school board. Sadly, due to family and work commitments, I wasn’t able to get to either meeting. But fortunately, Troy Vassos got to the one on Tuesday, and Keith Collyer managed to attend the meeting last night.
District Workshop on School Repurposing
On Tuesday evening, the school board held a workshop with the District on “school repurposing”. John Lewis gave the expected highly biased “spin” on program development and declining population projections – and then attempted to skirt-around public commentary on what should be done with PA lands. Barry Forward then corrected him – stating for the record that ALL of the public comments received stated the lands should be preserved as a capital asset – and only in critical situations should the assets be transferred to other capital interests (i.e. new building construction).
The DNV councillors made some very interesting statements regarding any future new building construction. It turns out they have come to the conclusion that Argyle and Handsworth are in the wrong locations – and that if there is funding to replace them rather than simply upgrade them seismically, they want to examine relocation and incorporation of community recreation and other services of mutual community/school benefit (e.g. enhanced playing fields, tracks, rec facilities, libraries, adult education, day care, theatres, etc.). Barry Forward and Susan Skinner suggested that the municipalities were in a better position to facilitiate planning and how the schools could best intergrate into the OCP than the NVSD (maybe there is hope).
Roger Bassam was particularly strong in questioning the NVSD, noting that even in leasing lands for revenue the NVSD needs to have a maximum 25 year lease period to maintain effective control and flexibility, what land sales the NVSD can put into general revenues to spend as they please, and even asked a leading question “who paid for the school lands?” .. to which Irene Young claimed to have been unable to answer despite exhaustive investigation – suggesting that in the absense of information to the contrary the land belonged to the NVSD. Roger replied the DNV has also looked into the question and obviously have been much more successful in theor research than the NVSD.
One last piece of information that echoes what Keith heard last night .. John Lewis stated the NVSD does not need any money from land sales as they have a balanced budget for at least the next three years.
NVSD Presentation on Land Livability and Learning
NVSD invited three experts on social development to speak at their workshop on Land, Livability and Learning on Wednesday night. The three speakers, although involved in development in one way or another did seem to give a balanced view of the options and responsibilities of the School Board with respect to the “surplus “schools. The most important point was that all three strongly advised against the selling of any of the properties, and also stressed that what ever happens to the sites must be something that meets the broader needs of the community.
They seemed to be suggesting that there must be a bit of vision involved, rather than just viewing the sites as a short term cash injection. One of the speakers poo poo’d one of the suggestions of the School District that the income from the sales would be used to create an education trust fund. The thinking being that it is probably better to retain the ownership of the land and use the revenue from leases etc. to fund future projects.
One of the speakers even suggested that consideration should be given to making sure that if needed in the future some of the land could be reestablished as schools, in case the School District projections for student population were wrong. The Trustees, if not the School Board Administration were given food for thought.
On a side note, at both meetings, the board (John Lewis on Tuesday, and Franci Stratton on Wednsday) indicated that the District does not need the money for budgetary purposes, only for future upgrading of facilities and programs.