Tag: community revitalization

What will happen after the school closure Moratorium expires?

How do we support public education in mature neighbourhoods? Today, and 20 years from now?

As former Trustee Sue Huff asked on her blog, if the outcome is school closure, is there ever a process that the community will support?

Here is a copy of the administration recommendation that passed unanimously this evening.


That after the Board articulates a set of principles to guide capital and accommodation 

planning, the Administration develop and implement a District infrastructure strategy

that identifies timelines and goals to provide high quality learning opportunities, respond

to community needs, address the deferred maintenance deficit, and right size district

space to efficiently meet short-term and long-term needs. That this recommendation replaces the motions approved on March 13, April 10, and September 11 2012.

This effectively means that no school closure recommendation will be coming forward from the administration in the 2012-2013 school year and instead the district will shift their attention to developing a long-term plan that they can bring back to the board in the new year.

I’ll post more thoughts on this at a later time, but right now I would urge you to check out the moratorium committee reports, the work the board has been doing in this area, and my previous writings on this subject. You can click here or search by tags on the right hand side of the page.

Community Gathering to strategize about schools in mature neighbourhoods: http://www.michaeljanz.ca/2011/04/ward-gathering-recap-celebrating-our-communities-and-our-neighbourhood-schools/

Are School Trustees Urban Planners? – http://www.michaeljanz.ca/2012/02/are-school-trustees-urban-planners/

To fully examine the work we are doing to try and support schools, and our growing infrastructure pressures,  please take a few minutes and read the research done through our school closure moratorium committee process. To see the information reports on the causes of closures, check out presentations on:

By administration numbers, our infrastructure costs outpace our revenues by $34.4 Million. Those costs are then paid for out of our operational budget (classroom dollars.) In some cases, there are very good reasons to do this (For example, keeping a small school open serving a high-needs population, or maintaining our commitment to choice in an area with limited educational opportunities.)

Plant Operation and Maintenance

Annual revenue $66.0 million & IMR funding $14.5 = Total $80.5 Million

2010/11 audited costs

Custodial $37.9 + Maintenance $25.2 +Utilities $24.3 + IMR 12.3 + Facilities Admin $9.6 + Amortization $5.0 = Total $114.3 Million

February Newsletter: School Closure Moratorium Committee Recommendations and much more

Hello Everyone,

Two very important information pieces regarding School Closures are on the radar.

  1. The EPSB Moratorium Committee Draft Recommendations:

Last year when our board established the two year moratorium on school closures, we determined the need to investigate the causes of closures and determine recommendations that could help keep more schools open. The findings focus on actions that the EPSB district should take and actions that the Province and the City of Edmonton should undertake.  Many of the mitigating factors around a school closure (amount of maintenance funding we receive, the number of children in the neighbourhood) are more influenced by the City or the Province and not by well-intentioned school trustees.

These recommendations are being discussed at 2PM tomorrow at our Public Board Meeting. You can watch it online at www.livestream.epsb.ca

To see the information reports on the causes of closures, check out presentations on:
1. Urban Growth Patterns 2.            Aging School Buildings and Infrastructure Deficit 3. Instructional and PO&M Funding 4.            District Enrolment Trends 5.            Space Utilization 6.            Alternative Programs and Open Boundaries 7. Leasing 8.            Concluding public forum


These recommendations if approved by the board will become the backbone or our advocacy regarding school sustainability.

Some questions I have…
– So what is the action piece?
– Do we need to prioritize the maintenance of existing schools over new schools?
– Do we need to establish which particular schools are at risk and need supporting?
– What will this work mean in future for our board and future boards in 10, 20, 30 years?
– What options are there for collaboration with the Edmonton Catholic School District?
– Are replacement schools something that should be referenced or considered when the cost of repair exceeds replacement?
– What do you think? michael@michaeljanz.ca

  1. The Mayor’s Task Force on Community Sustainability (The Michael Phair Task Force) Launch Feb 2nd @City Hall.

During the election Mayor Mandel was vocal about the need to support established communities and support more collaborative planning between the city and the school board. The Mayor established the Task Force on Community Sustainability headed by Former Councilor Michael Phair. The Task Force has been meeting with stakeholders around the city and hosting public consultations. I have been to a couple of these gatherings and found them to be most informative.


Many Edmonton communities, especially mature neighbourhoods, are challenged with keeping their communities livable, lively and vibrant when confronted with change. The population pattern of mature neighbourhoods typically sees a large decline in the number of school aged children, resulting in a significant impact on schools. This kind of change and others that occur over time in mature neighbourhoods can slowly lead to a loss of vibrancy and community ‘wholeness’.

The City recognizes that communities are the building blocks for the quality of life of its citizens and is aware that a key building block in healthy communities is schools. In collaboration with the provincial government, school boards, parents and community groups, the Task Force on Community Sustainability has been brought together to build innovative partnerships and plans across jurisdictions and to recommend ways that core neighbourhoods can become more vibrant and sustainable.

Looking for Solutions
Newsletters and Updates
Public Input
Task Force Members

  1. February Update

Much has been happening in 2012 so far. Last week we went on an organizational board retreat for 3 days and evaluated how we can do our work together, better. With the potential of a massive policy overhaul being undertaken by our board, we are always trying to evaluate how to do our work more effectively.

Outside of my work as a Public School Trustee (in theory this job is part-time though the committment is far more significant) I am the part-time Marketing Director for the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues. This job has me representing Edmonton neighbourhoods at the New Partners for Smart Growth Conference this coming week. This is quite complimentary to my work as a school trustee because many of the sessions focus on the relationships between schools and communities and how schools are a key component of good urban planning.

I’ve started my part-time Masters in Education Policy Studies at the University of Alberta and my classes are fantastic. I’m enrolled in a class about Education Administration in Canada and it is extremely relevant to the work we are doing with the board and the challenges that we face.

Thanks for reading! As always, please visit www.michaeljanz.ca for more information and updates. If you would like to meet for coffee to discuss anything related to our community or public education, I’d love to hear from you.

Michael Janz
Ward F Trustee
Edmonton Public School Board

If you read one book this summer: The New City by John Lorinc

The New City by John Lorinc: How the Crisis of Canada’s Cities is Reshaping Our Nation

I picked up THE NEW CITY by John Lorinc about two years ago and I still find myself referencing it once or twice a month. So many fantastic books on urban and city policy are American in scope, but this book examines everything through a uniquely Canadian lens. From aging populations to immigrants to crime to transportation issues to productivity– you name it– Lorinc touches on all of the pressure points affecting our communities and makes a convincing case that the future of our nation sinks or swims with our large urban centers.

I was immediately magnitized to his focus on LEARNING CITIES and the important role that public education plays in building strong cities. His LEARNING CITIES chapter gives an excellent synopsis of pressures facing public education– English language learners, school closures, growing urban aboriginal populations, lack of local control of funding, and much more.

His writing is as enjoyable to read as it is informative.

Learning Cities

If healthy neighbourhoods are the building blocks of cities, strong public schools are the glue that holds diverse urban communities together. Besides their core educational function, the public school system remains the only institution in our society where children, teens, and adults from vastly different cultural, ethnic, and socio-economic backgrounds can come together in a non-comercial environment for extended periods, during which they’ll learn at least as much from one another as they will from their teachers. Their parents may be set in their views, comfortable with their prejudices, and redesigned to their limits. Not so for their children: Canada’s urban schools are social combustion chambers brimming with the energy that has long typified the cosmopolitan culture of international trading cities.

Nor can their role as public spaces be underestimated. School playgrounds and sports fields double as local parks. Community associations, ethnocultural organizations, and adult education programs will use the facilities in the evenings for their own programs. Youth groups rent their gymnasiums and swimming pools. Some school libraries provide public internet access. Parents form networks, webs of casual social relationships that exist somewhere between friendship and nodding acquaintance. (It was a network of outspoken parent activists, People for Education, that played a pivotal role in toppling the Mike Harris regime, with its stridently anti-public-education policies.)

Schools bring neighbourhoods out for fun fairs, concerts, musicals, sporting events, cleanup days. Local businesses proudly sport signs showing that they’ve donated to a school fundraising drive. Children gather in the auditorium to listen to a local police officer, firefighter, or public health nurse.

In short, a lot goes on in and around big city schools besides schooling and their well-being is intimately connected to their surrounding neighbourhoods.

Page 82-83.


As Trustees, we must seek to understand and work with other municipal partners and agencies to try and address the plethora of factors impacting student performance and achievement. The challenges and pressures that come with municipal and provincial socio-economic pressures in our changing city have significant impacts on our public education system.

During my November results review, I met with a Principal from a school in a poorer area of the North East. I asked her what might help the kids in her school succeed. She indicated that they were from a “harder” part of town with more substance abuse, more violence, and learning was often the last thing on their fragile minds.

Little things she said, like making sure the kids had breakfast that morning made a significant difference. It was a stark reminder that there is often more behind the achievement test scores than gets reported.

John Lorinc nails how strong schools and strong communities go hand-in-hand and anyone concerned with the future of our city, province, or nation should read this book.


Of course I welcome other reading suggestions. Leave them in the comments below!

Recap: Conversation with Mayor’s Task Force on Community Revitalization

July 13th Meeting of the Mayor's Task Force on Community Revitalization

Last night I attended the Mayor’s Task Force on Community Revitalization meeting at Mckernan Hall. For a meeting on a hot July evening, the meeting was very well attended with 37 chairs being filled by my rough count. It was a reminder to the committee members and myself that the mature neighbourhoods and communities are still very concerned about what might happen to their schools and interested in helping revitalize and re-energize their communities. Official feedback was tabulated with each group tabulating priorities and I believe all of this information was presented to the Community Revitalization Task Force.

For information on the community league input, see the May Workshop Notes (click here) and an EFCL article summarizing the input from several meetings (click here) .

The discussion was wide-ranging from municipal collaboration to crime prevention to provincial underfunding.

I was impressed with the diversity of community voices that came from all quadrants of the city. There was an energy in the room and a commitment to building the kind of vibrant Edmonton that I want to live and raise my children and grandchildren in. This kind of long-term, collaborative thinking must be fostered and encouraged!

How do we get more families back into the core of our city?

These are not Edmonton numbers, but from what I have heard our statistics are very similar. This is a big concern and has huge impacts on our student health and quality of life.

Click to download the invitation in .pdf:  Apr7WardFCouncilInvite

Attention: School Councils, Community Leagues, parents, families, and all residents!

Please RSVP: michael@michaeljanz.ca Free parking is available. Refreshments provided.

April 7th, 2011 at City Arts Centre 84th Ave 109th Street

Doors at 6:30 PM

Meeting 7-9:30 PM

How do we get more families back into the core of our city?

Nearly all of the schools in our Ward (Downtown, University, Southgate, Riverbend) have fewer and fewer families living in surrounding neighbourhoods. Fewer students in the catchment areas put our schools at an ongoing risk of closure now and in the future.

As citizens, this is economically inefficient as these neighbourhoods are built for families. We have billions of dollars of infrastructure in the core of our city (including our playgrounds, schools, parks and pools, libraries, and roadways) but there are fewer families moving into our neighbourhoods. What can we do to bring more families back into Ward F?

This event is organized for the neighbourhoods in Ward F:

Downtown – Westmount – Oliver – Downtown – Rossdale

U of A/Southgate – Windsor Park – Garneau – Strathcona – Belgravia – McKernan – Queen Alex – Allendale – Grandview Heights – Lansdowne – Lendrum – Malmo – Parkallen – Pleasantview – Empire Park

North Riverbend – Brander Gardens – Brookside – Bulyea Heights – Ramsay Heights – Rhatigan Ridge

All guests are welcome.

To suggest a subject for our next ward council or to RSVP: Michael@michaeljanz.ca

Community Revitalization Task Force and Edmonton Public Schools

The launch of the Mayor’s task force on Community Revitalization is a positive step in the right direction for our city, and on a personal note, has reinforced to me one of the reasons why I wanted to run for trustee in the first place. One of my biggest frustrations during the last round of school closures was the “siloization” of different jurisdictions and the lack of cooperation that might help prevent future school closures in future. Both school boards, the city, and the province have representation on this committee.

To have the city come forward in such a significant way is a major acknowledgement that we need to start treating school closures as a city-wide problem and not just a school board decision. As we know that the impacts of closure reach beyond just the parents of school age children, this is an encouraging  moment to see such a diverse cross-section of representation on this Task Force.

During the election, I frequently said that we were asking the wrong question (which schools to close instead of how do we keep more schools open) It sounds like this group is working towards asking the right questions and taking a comprehensive, collaborative approach. We need to attract more families away from the new houses and back into the core where we already have existing services and amenities. Let’s be fiscally and environmentally sustainable and embrace the infrastructure we already have paid for.

Here is a link to the story: http://www.inews880.com/Channels/Reg/LocalNews/story.aspx?ID=1358953 (and photo credit too, by the way)

But how bold will this task force be able to be?

Small changes to programs or marketing won’t be enough to keep our schools open. We need transformative change when it comes to our future urban development. I hope that the committee presents comprehensive findings on revitalization that can be applied city-wide. Is the future planned sprawl of our city conducive to vibrant communities throughout the city? With the new city growth plan has Edmonton continuing to sprawl with a 3:1 ratio on new developments compared to infill in existing areas, how can we ever hope to stop school closures or revitalize mature neighbourhoods if our families are fleeing to the suburbs?

Where will our families live in 5 years? In 10 years? In 40 years?

The issues of family-friendly infill development, increasing the amount of families who live in our mature neighborhoods and initiatives designed to foster aging in the right place are just a few of the community-led pushes coming from Edmonton non-profits and community organizations. I hope this new task force consults the great work already being done in our city. I remain optimistic about the task force and look forward to the findings.