A public school board report calling for the closure of an Oshawa high school is shortsighted and the process leading to the recommendation is flawed, the Greater Oshawa Chamber of Commerce argues. “The process leading to a recommendation to close Dr. FJ Donevan Collegiate Institute has been insufficient and the outcome appears to have been predetermined by administration with little or no consideration to the needs of the community as a whole,” says Chamber General Manager and CEO Bob Malcolmson. He represents the business community on the Durham District School Board’s (DDSB) Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) for the East Oshawa, secondary schools area. The committee also includes parents, school staff and a representative from the City of Oshawa. When formed last May, it was asked to consider consolidating Donevan into Eastdale Collegiate Vocational Institute.
Donevan, built in 1957, is home to 630 students and can accommodate another 210. Eastdale, built a decade later, has an enrolment of 1,045 students. Though that’s near maximum capacity, enrolment is expected to drop dramatically with the opening of the new high school in north Oshawa.
Despite outcry from parents and students, the ARC has deemed consolidation of the schools as a viable option and is recommending the board consolidate Donevan into Eastdale as of September. Doing so will address the under-utilization at both schools and it will address the student programming challenges which result from under enrollment, the ARC says in a report.
Not so fast, says the Chamber. It believes the school board’s focus was too narrow and wants all secondary schools in the City of Oshawa to be included in the review. It points to one parent’s suggestion to transform O’Neill Collegiate and Vocational Institute – located across the street from Lakeridge Health Oshawa and the R.S. McLaughlin Durham Regional Cancer Centre – into a health science faculty.
Exploring the forward-thinking proposal should be part of the school board’s due diligence, the Chamber maintains, and would alter plans to close Donevan.
The Chamber is not alone in its criticism of school review processes. The Community Schools Alliance (CSA) is a group of more than 150 municipalities across the province that have banded together to try to convince the Ministry of Education to declare a moratorium on school closures until concerns about the accommodation review process are addressed.
A handful of ARC members who did not agree with the outcome of the ARC process – including Malcolmson – have filed a Minority Report with the DDSB. That report references the Region of Durham and City of Oshawa’s support of CSA’s proposal for a “smart moratorium” on school closures.
“The Chamber believes that our schools are valuable pieces of our public infrastructure and should be closed only as a last resort,” Malcolmson says in a letter to Premier Dalton McGuinty. “Too often, the ARC process required by the Education Act is treated merely as a formality by school boards, which implement the predetermined outcomes recommended by their administrations. The current process is flawed and appears to give school boards absolute power with no communication with the municipality.”