Saturday, December 26, 2009

EDHS - More than a High School

Over the last year I became more familiar with the threat of the potential loss of Elmvale District High School. The closure appeared to be driven by the Simcoe County District School Board's search for efficiency and cost reduction. I had not been aware that the Accommodation Review Committee (ARC), a group mandated by the Ministry of Education, had spent over a year of work and 26 meetings to file its report. To then have the board's bureaucrats simply ignore the report and propose a totally different solution, was quite shocking. The education of students, length of travel and effectiveness of the schools themselves appeared to be secondary in their deliberation. It seemed that the ARC exercise was lip service and the board already had decided the direction it wanted to take. To become better informed I attended three of the meetings at the Board in the late Spring and early summer. Since then I attended an information night at EDHS in October and more recently a SERVE meeting in Elmvale in early December.
Currently I see two perspectives amongst the former ARC members and the SERVE group that is attempting to retain the high school. Some have been encouraged by the Board's decision to delay the decision, whereas others are quite suspicious and are keeping guard on developments.
It is surprising that the thought of closing a local school in a community such as Elmvale would be even considered, as it goes against everything the province is attempting to do in its approach to having complete communities which is clearly outlined in both their Places to Grow and Provincial Policy Statement documents. In Springwater Township, Elmvale is the closest you will find to being a complete community as defined by the Province. The only thing that it lacks is public transit. Part of the Provinces vision is already fulfilled by Elmvale with the fact, that because of the good design and layout of the village (built around a centre core), you can walk or bicycle everywhere. Elmvale, in its present state, could be used as a model for the building of new communities. Removing the only high school in the Township, would actually dismantle this model of excellence. It is unfortunate that this council saw fit to build the new administration in the middle of nowhere, rather than in Elmvale, as it would have further enhanced the complete community concept. To me the local school board either is out of sync with the province or think they know better. Like we saw with the County of Simcoe and Site 41, the elected School Board officials are being misguided by out of control bureaucrats.
I have been pleased that the Township of Springwater has stepped up to the plate and are actively involved with providing solutions and assistance to the SERVE group and are taking a lead role. The concept introduced by the Mayor at the Board meeting back in the early summer, speaks well to the matter. The vision of a Campus approach with Elmvale is a creative and thoughtful way of swaying the minds of those short sighted Board Trustees. It will hopefully bring the support of the higher levels of government including the province. By partnering with various stakeholders such as business, agriculture and manufacturing, new opportunities of learning may be brought to the Elmvale Campus and facilitated by EDHS attracting more students to enhanced learning offerings.
The school board's distorted view and misdirection certainly applies to more than just our beloved Elmvale District High School. The City of Barrie, our neighbor to the south seems to have a dysfunctional growth plan and continues its urban sprawl which is contrary to the provincial policies. Having spent time in Europe, it was interesting to see the rebuilding of city centres with the desire to attract new residents with the vision of reducing sprawl and traffic. The City of Barrie certainly needs to promote its city centre growth with a mix of residential and commercial development before it enters a new level of decay. The School board's review and recommendation of the closing of Prince of Wales School and now rumours of closing Barrie District Central Collegiate, can only be considered counterproductive to a positive future for Barrie's downtown.
I encourage you to contact your local School Board trustee and implore them to support these well established schools that serve our community well. These schools have contributed greatly to the health and well being of the communities they serve. The Board should be encouraged to spend the money and refurbish these great institutions rather than building large schools that better resemble “education factories”, rather than "places of learning" which they are meant be. As I have said before, in the case of Elmvale, if EDHS is allowed to close through the short sightedness of the Board, our entire community will be affected. None of us in Springwater wants that to happen.
You have a voice. Speak out now!

Monday, December 7, 2009

CBC News - Money - Tax Harmonization: Frequently Asked Questions

If you are trying to better understand the new harmonized sales tax in Ontario, this article is an easy read. The bottom line is that it will cost us all more money on most things we purchase.
It is an easy tax grab by the provincial government.

CBC News - Money - Tax Harmonization: Frequently Asked Questions