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Feature Article - February 1, 2007

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February 1, 2007

What does prohibitive to repair mean? LDSB wants to know -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------by Jeff Green

In November, the Limestone District School Board received word from the Province of Ontario that eight of its schools have been designated as “prohibitive to repair”; but according to School Board Chair Ann Goodfellow, as of yet the school board is unclear as to the implications of this designation.

Among the eight schools listed are PrinceCharlesPublic School in Verona and SharbotLakeHigh School.

The “prohibitive to repair” designation for the eight schools came about after a two-year accommodation review initiated by the Ministry of Education. The review included a complete inventory of schools by the board, and as well, the ministry itself sent a team to look at each school.

As a result, the board received $23 million for capital repairs in 2005, and they were expecting a further $14 million in 2006, but only received $6 million.

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Ann Goodfellow said that the province considers a school as “prohibitive to repair” when the “total cost of bringing the school up to today’s standards is more than 65% of the cost of replacement.

“Just before Christmas they came out with a directive to go through all of our schools again, and with the ministry’s criteria we assessed them again. We found over 20 schools that we felt were prohibitive to repair and reported that to the ministry. The average of schools in our board is 40 years, so it isn’t surprising that some of them are in need of replacement.”

The school board has no inkling thus far what the province intends to do with the schools on the list. They could fund replacement buildings or leave them as they are. Board Chair Goodfellow said that the schools are all in safe condition and if there are any health or safety concerns the board will carry out necessary repairs.

Meanwhile the school board has been spending the $29 million in capital funding that they have received in the past two years on construction projects throughout the region, choosing projects from a priority list.

“Last summer we had over 80 projects on the go,’ Ann Goodfellow said. She wants to assure students and parents from Verona and SharbotLake that the “prohibitive to repair” designation does not imply school closings.

The province recently ended a moratorium on school closings, but Goodfellow said, “Our board is not rushing into anything. We have not yet looked at school closings as a possibility anywhere in the board, and if we do, it will be a long and very careful process. Enrolment levels, the role of the school in the community, and distance are all issues we would have to address. It is not in our board’s tradition to close schools.”

Ann Goodfellow: first Limestone chair from “the north” –

As she begins her third term as a school board trustee, Ann Goodfellow has become the Board Chair.

She has been preparing for this new role for several years, heading several committees and serving as Vice-Chair, but taking on this new role does bring its challenges. It all came into perspective for her when she chaired the first board meeting last week.

“I must say I found it exhausting,” she recalls, “It was a whole different leadership role. We have four new trustees out of the nine on the board, so they will have some learning to do, but there is a good atmosphere on the board, which is exciting.”

In the short time she has been Board Chair, Ann Goodfellow says the board has been “primarily concerned with capital issues; program issues have fallen by the wayside, which I regret. There are so many things that we are doing that should be celebrated.”

Examples of this are the building internship program, and the visual Paradise Art Show at the Frontenac Mall, where students from the focus program on the arts at Queen Elizabeth Vocational Institute are showing their work.

“Everybody is just raving about it” Ann Goodfellow said, “and our building internship program is finishing their 60th house this year. We are not able to talk about these accomplishments because of the tough money issues we are facing as a board. But we need to find a way to get the word out about these great accomplishments.”

As the first Limestone Board Chair representing the so-called northern schools, Ann Goodfellow says she is happy to bring a rural perspective to the board, which is based in the City of Kingston, where many of the schools are located.

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