Who owns a school?

Ontario is presently experiencing a period of declining student enrollment.  This is what any school board official will preface any remark they make when responding to a concerned parent’s question about an impending school closure.  And yes, there is some truth to this.  In Ontario, overall, the number of students attending is school has dropped.  It has leveled out somewhat in the earlier grades but the drop in enrollment is now moving its way up into the higher elementary and high school grades.

For school boards, it becomes a question of economics.  A throwback to the Mike Harris years, schools are still funded on an archaic and ineffectual per student basis.  This means that boards now favour for fewer, larger schools.  The drop in enrollment gives them the excuse to close and consolidate schools.  But they have the right to do so?

In Oshawa, the Camber of Commerce is challenging the proposed closure of a high school, demanding that the school board remain accountable to taxpayers whose property values may be affected.  The question is, do school boards have the right to make such unilateral decisions that have a significant impact on the community?  School boards will counter, claiming that their processes are democratic and transparent and they will argue that they are dealing with an “economic reality”, but what is really happening is a turf war.

Who owns a school?

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