Future of DYS under review

Peggy Revell

The pupil accommodation review looking into the future of Donald Young School in Emo is starting to roll out.
The review committee overseeing the process currently is going through an orientation stage, noted Casey Slack, superintendent of education for the Rainy River District School Board.
Then starting next month, there will be a series of four public meetings—set for December, January, February, and March—to gather input on the school.
“We welcome a wide range of participation,” Slack stressed. “We want it to be as transparent as possible.”
All the information pertaining to the review will be advertised well in advance and also be up on the board’s website, he said, adding there are policies and procedures for the process which are in line with government guidelines.
These also are all available for the public to access on the board’s website.
Currently, the committee is designing a “template” for what will be a “fairly comprehensive review” of the school, which eventually will be submitted to trustees.
The “template” is basically a school information profile, Slack explained, and probably will be 15 pages long.
“What it does is it breaks down the school itself: the value to the student, the value to the system, value to the community, and value to the local employer.”
This information will be gathered from the public, but also is information they will have at the board office, added Slack, such as from the Plants and Maintenance and Business departments.
When it comes to feedback from the public, Slack said they’re asking that people share information on what DYS means to the community.
“It could be, for example, the facility for community use,” he remarked. “Types of programs that are offered to not just the students but community members like adult learning.
“It could be reflecting on the school grounds as green space.”
Or about how the school is a partner in local government initiatives, added Slack.
“So in terms of value to the community, how is the school acting like a hub?”
When it comes to value to the local economy, that could be
anything from the availability of training opportunities, partnerships with businesses, or even attracting or retaining families to the community, said Slack.
“But the bulk of the decision actually will be the value to the student,” he noted. “It will relate to things like the quality of the learning environment.
“It could be student outcomes at the school, how they’re performing on various testing, range of courses and program offerings.”
In terms of the building itself, it would involve the adequacy of the physical space to support student learning, said Slack, and even the adequacy of the school grounds for healthy physical activity.
As well, a web portal will be created. That way, if there are questions that can’t be answered at the public sessions, or by the committee, these questions and the answers to them then can be posted.
Once the profile is completed, the committee will make a decision and recommend to the board what next steps should be taken, said Slack.
This is scheduled to be presented to the board in March, although there won’t be a resolution on it until June.
The pupil accommodation review stems from a 2003 initiative by the Ministry of Education, which saw it hire an independent firm whose task was to inspect and assess the physical condition of every single school in the province, Slack explained.
Through this inspection, DYS—along with the former Robert Moore School and Huffman School here—were deemed “prohibitive to repair” (PTR).
“Essentially, that means that the Ministry of Education will not fund any major renovations,” Slack said. “Essentially, the replacement of the building is more economical than renovating.”
At its monthly meeting this past June, the local public board passed a resolution that would see DYS, Sturgeon Creek, and Crossroads School consecutively undergo these pupil accommodation review.
“The accommodation review process ensures that funding is spent on enriching educational opportunities for all students, and part of the committee will explore a variety of alternatives and solutions,” Slack remarked.
“It’s a very comprehensive process and possibilities range from rebuilding a school [to] renovating [or] consolidating.”
In the case of a rebuild, it could be at the present school site or a new one.
Slack stressed the review is about being fiscally prudent.
“Ultimately, the board will balance fiscal responsibility while ensuring its commitment to student success,” he said.