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June 15, 2009 - School Enrolment/School Capacity Minutes
School Enrolment/School Capacity Committee
June 15, 2009

A public eeting of the School Enrolment/School Capacity Committee was held on Monday, June 15, 2009, at 6:30 p.m., at Denbigh Public School, 31 Central Street, Denbigh, Ontario.
Present Trustees:
A. Goodfellow, Chair
G. Beavis
H. Brown
H. Chadwick, Vice-Chair
E. Crawford
B. McLaren
P. Murray
Present Staff:
Glen Carson, Manager of Facility Services
Brenda Hunter, Director of Education
Darlene Kirkpatrick, Recording Secretary
Roger Richard, Superintendent of Business Services
Frank Smida, Principal
Wayne Toms, Manager, ITS        
        Chair Goodfellow called the meeting to order, welcoming those in attendance to the meeting.  Trustees introduced themselves and Chair Goodfellow introduced the staff present at the meeting.

        Chair Goodfellow reported that regrets were received from Trustees French and Jackson.

Approval of Agenda

        MOVED BY Trustee McLaren, seconded by Trustee Beavis, that the agenda, as distributed, be approved.–Carried

Senior Staff Report Regarding the Status of Denbigh Public School

        Superintendent Richard advised that the Senior Staff Report regarding the Status of Denbigh Public School that is available this evening to members of the public, was the same report that Senior Staff took to the Board in May 2009.  He reviewed the report, noting that it includes the information that led to this evening’s meeting, noting that the reason for the meeting is to inform the public of the Board’s intention going forward.  He said that no approval to dispose of Denbigh Public School has been given.  This evening’s meeting is to explain to the public the Board’s intentions with respect to Denbigh Public School, and to hear any input that members of the public may have.

        Superintendent Richard advised that the school is located in the community of Denbigh in Addington Highlands Township.  He further advised that the school was built in 1960 with     730 m2 of floor space, and an addition was built in 1989 adding another 252 m2 of space.  The school currently has a Ministry-rated on the ground capacity of 112 students.

        Superintendent Richard reported that in October 2005, enrolment at Denbigh Public School was 20 students between Junior Kindergarten and Grade 5, which represented a significant enrolment decrease from previous years.  In June 2006, registrations for the following school year were at 7 students. Senior Staff at the time determined that the school could not be staffed to support an enrolment of 7 students, so the Board decided to transfer the remaining students to North Addington Education Centre.  Superintendent Richard said that since the 2006/2007 school year, Denbigh Public School has not been staffed.

        Superintendent Richard indicated that for the 2008/2009 school year, there are 21 Junior Kindergarten to Grade 6 students attending North Addington Education Centre, who live in the former Denbigh Public School catchment area.

        Superintendent Richard advised that staff have reviewed the appropriate legislation regarding the authority of the Board to close schools.  Section 171(1)7 of the Education Act states as follows:

        “A board may determine the number and kind of schools to be established and maintained and the attendance area for each school, and close schools in accordance with policies established by the board from guidelines issued by the Minister;”

        Superintendent Richard reported that the Board has developed a school accommodation policy, which implements the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines released by the Ministry of Education (Ministry) in October of 2006.  The Ministry has stated that its guidelines apply to schools offering elementary or secondary regular day-school programs.  Since Denbigh Public School is now offering any regular elementary or secondary regular day-school programs, the Ministry’s guidelines do not apply in this case.

        Superintendent Richard stated that, however, the Ministry guidelines also indicate “that although a board is not obligated to undertake a full accommodation review, the board should provide appropriate notice of decisions that would affect the accommodation situation of students.”

        Superintendent Richard commented that the Board has been approached by at least two residents of the area indicating interest in acquiring the Denbigh Public School site.  The intentions as to what the building would be used for were not provided by the interested parties.  He indicated that the building was last used by way of a rental agreement in the spring of 2008.  There has been no official usage of the site since that time.

        Superintendent Richard said that staff is recommending that the Board formally close and dispose of the Denbigh Public School site in accordance with the Education Act and Regulations, noting that is the reason we are holding this evening’s public meeting.

Community Input Related to the Status of Denbigh Public School

        Paul Isaacs said that he is affiliated with Denbigh Public School.  He said that he is grateful for his education, and that is why he wants to give something back to the community.  Mr. Isaacs said that he sat on the School Advisory Council for over 10 years and that he has volunteered with the school for over 10 years, and he is not happy with the recommendation.  He said that in a community without any infrastructure of education, it is difficult to track families.  He said that closing the school is unfriendly to families in the area.  Mr. Isaacs advised that some students must travel on a bus for up to 2.5 hours each day, and he is not happy with that situation.  He commented on the amount of tax dollars that is provided to the school board to educate students in the northern area.  He said that the amount works out to about $120,000 for the LDSB.  He said that he has no problem with paying school taxes as education does a great deal of good, but he is hard pressed to pay taxes to the LDSB that does not supply education in his community.

        Reeve Henry Hogg, Township of Addington Highlands, read the following statement:

        “I am here to speak on behalf of the Township of Addington Highlands and its residents.

        In the 1980s, parents of children who attended Denbigh Public School realized that this school was missing something that all other schools in Lennox and Addington County had, namely a gymnasium.

        Fund raising began and shortly thereafter, $37,000 was accumulated.  The Township of Denbigh, Abinger and Ashby, now part of Addington Highlands, spearheaded an application for a Wintario Grant of approximately $80,000.

        This resulted in the construction of a multipurpose facility – gymnasium, kitchen and community meeting hall which was intended to be used by the community when not being used by the students.

        I believe that as a result of the efforts to raise the monies to construct this facility the Township of Addington Highlands representing the members of the community should have the opportunity to take over ownership and management of the Denbigh Public School.”

        Reeve Hogg said that since no records seem to exist due to amalgamation of townships and schools, some of his figures may be inaccurate, but the intent truly represents what happened over 20 years ago.

        Steve Johnson, a retired police officer, and a teacher involved in training with the RCMP, said he was wondering if someone will jump up and speak for broader educational facilities.  He asked if colleges, other schools, or educational venues were aware that the facility is going to be available for activities.  He commented that we are in an age of continued learning, and that is how people grow.  He asked if the Board was in touch with other educational institutes that may be interested in offering courses in Denbigh.  He said that he personally believes that Denbigh Public School is a terrific facility.

        Superintendent Richard said that if a school board wishes to dispose of surplus real property, it must do so in accordance with the Education Act and Ontario Regulation 444/98.  He said first the Board must approve a motion declaring a property surplus to its needs.  The Board then has an obligation to notify specific public bodies about the availability of surplus properties.  The French Public, English Separate and French Separate school boards, community colleges/ universities with operations within the geographic area of the board, and the municipality in which the property is located must be simultaneously notified of the availability of s surplus property.  Superintendent Richard said that no offer of purchase can be considered or accepted from any of these bodies until 90 days have passed.  After 90 days, if none of the preferred agencies are interested in purchasing the surplus property, then it can go to public tender.  He said that if a preferred agency was interested, the Board would work with that agency in terms of disposing of the property.

        Reeve Hogg asked if the monies raised in the late 1980s for the construction of the gymnasium could go towards any purchase price on the school if the township took over the property.

        Superintendent Richard said that would be something the Board would review.  He said that if the municipality is one of the preferred agencies interested in the property, it should indicate its plan in the proposal forwarded to the Board.  He said that the Board would have to consider the municipality’s request.  Superintendent Richard said that any transfer of property is to be at market value; however, a request could be made to the Ministry of Education citing special circumstances.

        Joan McLeod said that she was raised in this community, and that she went to Denbigh Public School for Grades 1 to 8.  She commented on the excellent education that she received at the school.  She said that there are a number of elderly people living in the community and suggested that the school could be turned into something to house the elderly in the community.

        John Williams spoke on behalf of small schools, indicating that he was involved with the day use school program in cooperation of public and separate schools in Renfrew County.  He said that he had a good opportunity to observe students.  He said that students from small schools are more open to learning, they are more enthusiastic and cooperative.  He said that we need to be careful to avoid amalgamation of schools, if possible.

        Director Hunter thanked Mr. Williams for his comments.  She commented on the low enrolment at Denbigh Public School, and the discussions held with parents from the school with regard to the issues.  She talked about more opportunities for students in a larger school, noting that when the seven students at Denbigh became five students, the Board had little alternative but to move forward in order to provide a high quality educational experience.  She commented on limited funding being available, and the Board’s commitment to maximizing the experience it provided to the children.  She said that the children attending school at the North Addington Education centre receive a successful education at that school.

        Carol Ann Kelly said that she taught at Denbigh Public School, noting that she taught kindergarten, music, and that she was a librarian and a principal at the end of her career.  She said that she documented on film the building of the addition, and that Denbigh Public School is a wonderful school.  She said that she understands that to keep the school open for seven children is not viable.  She commented that she taught children in a one-room school and that they received a good education.  Ms. Kelly said that her main concern is that the community raised funds to build the gymnasium.  She said that she hopes that when it becomes time to dispose of the school, that whoever gets it makes sure the building would be used by the people in the community.  She said that the school is in relatively good shape.  

        Bill Snider said that he was Principal at Denbigh Public School for 17 years, prior to the mid 1980s.  He said that the gymnasium had not been constructed when he taught at the school.  He commended the former Lennox and Addington Board of Education for constructing the gymnasium for community use and for the students at the school.  He said that during his 17 years as Principal at the school, the school was used for many purposes by the community, and that no one paid a rental fee at that time.  He said that he was disappointed that in the last few years the school has been closed, that it was closed to the community and to the students.  He said that there is a lot of red tape to go through to rent the school.  He said that enrolment at the school was way above 150 students, and that things changed rapidly shortly afterwards, with the Grade 7 and 8 students moving to North Addington Education Centre.  He said that the North Addington Education Centre was overbuilt to accommodate students and that is why the Grade 7 and 8 students moved to the North Addington Education Centre.  Mr. Snider said that a lot of decisions were made over the years that caused enrolment to decline at Denbigh Public School.  He also commented that some students returned to Renfrew County.  He said some decisions were made by the former Lennox and Addington County and Renfrew County Boards of Education.  He said that the Denbigh community could make great use of the school.  He said that the school could also be used as a educational centre as well.

        Robin Snider said that she is an occasional teacher, a former student at Denbigh Public School, and the daughter-in-law of a former Principal.  She said that her son who is in Grade 1, attends North Addington Education Centre, and he has to catch the bus at 7:30 a.m.  She commented that children in the community have to be bussed or their parents have to drive them to school.  She suggested that the school could be used for activities for children or a place where children could go.  She said that the children in the community could then get together in the community, rather than having to be taken to Cloyne.  She said that her son does not know a lot of the other children in his community.  She said that school is something that the community needs and the children need, noting that the school is the pillar of the community.  She said that the school would be sadly missed if it was disposed of.  Mrs. Snider said she was a former teacher in the former Renfrew County Board of Education, and that a school was sold to the City of Pembroke for $1.  She said that the City could not keep the school up.  She said that if the Township of Addington Highlands or members of the community have an opportunity to purchase the school, the Board should consider their requests.  She said that the school is very important.  She suggested that Trustees consider the comments made this evening.

        Mr. Isaacs challenged that a small school is unable to provide an adequate education to youngsters.  He said that he does not believe that a bigger school provides better facilities.  He said that in his experience in tutoring students who needed it the most, he tried to get them to respect themselves and people, and to lift their spirits.  He said a little school has an opportunity to do so.  He said that a little school can offer lots.

        Janice Kerr, Councillor, Addington Highlands, and Chairperson of the Denbigh Recreational Committee, stated that Council would be interested in taking over the school.  She commented that they got a Trillium grant to repair their rink.  She said that everyone believes that this building would be a great place for children, and that she hopes the Board takes that into consideration.

        Steve Johnson stated that if the Board follows its procedures and goes to other educational institutes of learning to see if they are interested in acquiring the property, he believes they will turn down the opportunity to acquire the site and school.  He asked how Reeve Hogg’s proposal would be considered by the Board.  He said that we have talked about how the school would be good for the community, and asked if that would be part of the Board’s consideration, or if the Board was looking at it from a money point of view.

        Director Hunter said each one of the preferred agencies has the first right of refusal sequenced in the order laid out in the Education Act.  She said that when the offer arrives to the community, the community can engage in discussions as to what it wants.  She said that the property is related to market value.  She said that if another educational institution wanted to buy the building, it would have to pay market value.  She said that she is not in a position to clarify how market value is determined.

        Superintendent Richard said that the Education Act is clear in terms of market value.  He said that to take into account what the community fund raised for the gymnasium requires, the Board would have to request the Ministry to allow this to happen.

        Tony Bridges stated that he went to Denbigh Public School.  He suggested that if the Township is interested in acquiring the property and school, the price should be set at $1.

        Chair Goodfellow said that there are a number of steps the Board has to go through, and it has to get Ministry approval.

        Diane Isaacs said that the money aspect comes in here.  She said that market value is to come into play; however, if the Board cannot get market value for the property, and an offer was made to purchase the site for $50 or $1, would the Board take that offer, if it had no other offers.

        Superintendent Richard stated that the Board has to go to the preferred agencies first, and if no one was interested, then staff would have to go back to the Board for approval to go to public tender.  He said that we will not know what we may or may not get.  He said that the tender would usually go to the highest bidder.

        Mrs. Isaacs said that the school has a high value to the community.

        Chair Goodfellow said that the municipality is included in the list of preferred agencies.  The municipality would have to indicate it had no interest in purchasing the property before the Board would go to public tender.  She said that if the municipality comes back to say it is interested in purchasing the property, the Board would have to have that discussion first.  She said if that did not meet Ministry approval, then the Board could pass a motion that the property go to public tender.

        Mrs. Isaacs said she did not want to see the building destroyed; the community would really like the building.

        Director Hunter said that the Board would do their best to include the municipality in the process, and would keep the community informed of the process we have to go through.  She said that she believes that another school board would not want the building.  She said that we have to legally go through the process.

        A person asked how long would the process take.  Superintendent Richard said that subsequent to the report Senior Staff produced, another report will go to the board, probably with the recommendation that the property be sold.  He said that report would not likely go forward until the August or September Board meeting of this year.  He said that letters would then have to be forwarded to the list of preferred agencies.   He said that the preferred agencies would then have 90 days to indicate if they were interested in acquiring the property.  He said that stops everything from going until public tender.  He said that it would probably early next year for a response to be received, and then a report would have to go to the Board.

        In response to a question, Superintendent Richard advised that all of the preferred agencies are invited at once.

        In response to a question, Superintendent Richard stated that an appraisal of the property would have to be prepared by an AACI designated person.

         A person asked if there was a chance an agency could make a bid of a nominal sum.  Superintendent Richard replied that the preferred agencies have to let the Board know if they are interested in acquiring the site.  He said that the Board would wait for all offers to come in.  He said that if there is only one agency, then the Board begins to correspond with that agency.  He said that the Ministry of Education has to also oversee the process, and they would have to see what we get.  Superintendent Richard said that the community did contribute money towards the gymnasium, and that could make an argument with the Ministry to sway how to make this work for the betterment of the community.

        Mr. Snider said that we heard about market value, and he would like to speak about community value.  He said that he believes this facility has great value to the community and always has had.  He said that a building has been on this site since 1850, and over the years it has been a great community centre, not just for education, but for other things as well.  He commented on the agricultural fair being a great community function.  He said that during the weekends the school was filled with youngsters involved in hockey games, etc.  He said that the school was used for change rooms and for an area where people could keep warm when they got cold during winter activities.  He said that this building and site have a great value to the community.  He said that it would be a shame to see it go to a group outside of the community.  He said he believes the best use of the site is for the community.

        Chair Goodfellow reminded everyone that the Board has a Community Use of Schools Administrative Procedure.  Manager Carson explained the rental fees, and said that he could talk to the municipality about a joint use agreement, noting that the insurance costs could be waived as the municipality carries a $2 million liability policy.  He commented that the Board has third party liability insurance, but that he could talk to the Township to bring the costs down to zero.

        In response to a question, Superintendent Richard said that the municipality could get an appraisal done, and when that person does the appraisal, the visit to the school would be supervised by Board staff.

        Dave Savigny reported that he is a resident of Denbigh and was involved in real estate for 30 years.  He also said he was involved in appraisals.  He said that market value for a building like this would be considered a commercial building.  He said that an appraiser would have to figure out the best use for the building to determine what income the building would produce before putting it on the market.  He said that he does not think anyone would run a business at the school so the best use is as a community building.  He said that the income produced from that would be zero dollars; therefore, the value of the property is about zero dollars.

        Reeve Hogg advised that the municipality assessors were taken over by the province, and that the municipality has to hire them.

        Chair Goodfellow said that the Board would assume the cost for a formal appraisal to be done.

        Mr. Snider commended the Board and Manager Carson for the way in which the building has been maintained.  He said that the building is ready for use today.  He thanked the Board for the wonderful job, and said he would like to see the building used for community purposes.

        Chair Goodfellow thanked those in attendance for their comments, and for attending this evening’s meeting.  She said that the Board will take all the comments into consideration, and staff will inform the community as soon as possible of its decision.  She reminded everyone that the municipality is a preferred agency, noting that the letters will be sent out to the preferred agencies once the Board makes a decision.

Date of Next Meeting

        The next meeting of the School Enrolment/School Capacity Committee is scheduled for Monday, June 29, 2009, at 6:00 p.m., at the Limestone Education Centre, 220 Portsmouth Avenue, Kingston, ON.


        MOVED BY Trustee Beavis, seconded by Trustee McLaren, that the meeting adjourn at 7:30~p.m.–Carried