School closure policy

Beamsville District Secondary School, Ontario

Provincial legislation and accommodation review

In Canada school boards exist wholly at the discretion of their respective provincial governments. With the promulgation of Bills 160 and 104 in Ontario, the province increased its ability to modify and configure school boards as it sees fit, in terms of size, funding, operational mandate, resource allocation and so forth. With no constitutional grounds to appeal, school boards are very much “creatures of the province.” Given the absolute authority the province has over school boards actions and activities, the province chose to present school boards with guidelines when it comes to the issues of school closures, not directives or standards. The accommodation review guidelines (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2006) state that its purpose is to provide direction for accommodation reviews.

The purpose of the Pupil Accommodation Review Guidelines (previously referred to as school closure guidelines) is to provide direction to school boards regarding public accommodation reviews undertaken to determine the future of a school or group of schools (p. 1). Further, the language of the guidelines appear as a vehicle whose purpose is to ensure a fuller, participatory, community focused process in the deliberation on a school’s continued viability.

Policy implication on school closures and accommodation review

The continuation of a province-wide funding formula and the failure to reinstate the ability of local school boards to levy property taxes have greatly restricted the ability of boards to act in a manner inconsistent with provincial policy directions. The school boards’ financial wherewithal to act unilaterally does not exist. Paradoxically, the accommodation review guidelines unequivocally state that the responsibility for school closures resides within the mandate of local school boards: “School boards in Ontario are responsible for conducting public accommodation reviews to determine the future of a particular school or schools” (Ontario, 2006, p. 2). Further, the guidelines establish a very specific School Valuation Framework (Ontario, 2006, p. 2) based on four variables, value to the student, the community, the school board and the local economy. These variables are to be employed when determining the future of a local school.

The provincial guidelines also establish criteria for the transparent dissemination of public information and public access to information regarding an accommodation review in progress. One criterion states that a school board needs to ensure that all relevant information is posted “in a prominent location on the school board’s website or making it available in print upon request” (p. 3). While this criterion appears to provide transparent and relatively seamless access to the process-in-action, the lack of proactive communication has been identified by critics of the process as a key concern.

Further reading and citations

Ontario. Ministry of Education (1997). Bill 104, Fewer School Boards Act, 1997. Retrieved from!D=18827

Ontario. Ministry of Education (1997). Bill 160, Education Quality Improvement Act, 1997. Retrieved from!D=18919

Ontario. Ministry of Education (2006). Pupil accommodation review guidelines. Retrieved from

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