Public school closures 'inevitable'

The Greater Essex County District School Board superintendent Terry Lyons says school closures are "inevitable."

Empty seats in old classrooms costing millions

The Greater Essex County District School Board says school closures are "inevitable."

Superintendent Terry Lyons made the dire prediction Monday on CBC Windsor's Early Shift.

Lyons said the school board has 7,000 empty student spaces costing the board approximately $7 million a year. He wants to trim that cost by at least 50 per cent.

"We’re trying to make efficient use of our financial resources to better serve our students," Lyons said.

Three high schools and the elementary feeder schools associated with them will be under review, said Lyons.

They include: Forster Secondary School and W.F. Herman Secondary School in Windsor, and Kingsville District High School in Essex County.

Old schools unsustainable

The board is one of the oldest in the province and as a result has some of the oldest schools in Ontario. Lyons said the board cannot sustain the buildings in the condition they are in.

In addition, he said the elementary schools feeding Forster High School are experiencing some of the fastest declining enrolment.

It all means the board will have to make tough financial decisions.

Lyons said the board will create a review committee and he wants members of the public to be part of it.

The board will host an information meeting at 6 p.m. on Monday at General Brock Public School to discuss the future of the Forster family of schools. Similar meetings about the other two groups of schools will be held at a later date.

"We’re going to get a ton of input from the community in terms of people who have students in school," Lyons said.

The superintendent said the review process will be "transparent."

"We have to continue to be proactive otherwise we’re going to have to be reactive," Lyons said.

The board has already decided to close Oakwood Public School at the end of the 2011-2012 school year. Students will be transferred to Glenwood Public School. The board is also moving French immersion students at École Bellewood School to another building across town.

A facilitator from the Ministry of Education reviewed that process to ensure proper procedures were followed but had no power to overturn the decisions even if they weren't.

A copy of the facilitator's review has not yet been made public.