Tag: School Closures

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

What happens after the school closure moratorium expires in November 2012?

Trustee Spencer and I moved two motions to be debated at the March 13th board meeting (www.livestream.epsb.ca) that will start the discussion about how we make public education work in established neighborhoods. The school closure moratorium committee has been a very informative process, but looking twenty years down the road we need to figure out how all of the pieces work together, and if options like brand new replacement schools can be part of the mix.

Please read our moratorium committee recommendations to help keep schools open, here. We know we need a new utilization formula that reflects the true use of school space and we know that we need some excess capacity built into the system to incorporate the return of families to established neighborhoods. However, ultimately keeping schools open depends on local kids going to local schools and the demographic changes required to repopulate many of our neighbourhoods (using all statistics available) is going to take much, much, longer than I had anticipated when I was a trustee candidate.

I want to be clear that our board remains committed to the moratorium, which expires in November 2012. Administration continues to review all of our facilities and programs, but as a board we will continue to examine ways to keep schools open and investigate new and collaborative partnerships that might support more of our schools. For instance, I have been pushing for more collaboration with the separate school system (Journal: school boards will consider sharing space.)

What do we do when a school enrollment is dropping to the point where a regular program might have 50 children? What do we do when a choice program is located in a place that isn’t serving the local students or community? What do you do when you have two half-empty schools located in the same neighbourhood? What do you do when your budget is stretched further and further, but your costs are growing faster than your revenues?

These motions are informed based on the feedback I have been receiving from school councils and community consultations throughout my campaign and my term in office (What can we do to attract more families back to established neighbourhoods?) It is also a reflection of my learning as a trustee as I’ve been working with my colleagues to grasp the complexity of our space and infrastructure needs and the changing demographics in our city. While we can (and should) keep the vast majority of our schools open for when our neighbourhoods refill with young families, in the short term there may need to be a few changes in declining areas that have multiple schools– sometimes in the same neighborhood (or under a kilometre away.)

As the moratorium comes to an end, I believe that given our 197 schools in Edmonton, we need to evaluate, if every single one of these schools is best serving their local community and hear from our administration about possible opportunities. As trustees, we need to be willing to hear our options they can bring forward.

Additionally, we need to make sure that the closure cost-savings (estimated at a million per closure by administration) follow the children to the receiving school so instead of them just being inconvenienced by change, they can be offered something better.

Trustee Spencer and I put these motions on the table to start the conversation with our board on March 13th.

What do we do when the moratorium expires?

  • Did we get the suggested numbers right?
  • Are there other criteria we might be overlooking?
  • Are there other short-term opportunities to support schools?
  • “It’s not what you take away, it’s what you leave behind.” What should we focus on leaving behind?

Please review these motions and provide your feedback. Please sign up for my newsletter on the right hand side of this page so I can email you information as it comes forward. You can always email me Michael@michaeljanz.ca on this or any issue.

Trustee Spencer: 1. Building on the Elevate Report recommendations, that the District develop a 20-year infrastructure plan, in conjunction with communities, other levels of government and school boards, to enrich life-long learning opportunities and provide supports for children and families, and which may include renewal of existing facilities, modernizations, consolidations, replacement schools, cross-district partnerships, expansions, right-sizing and new school construction. The plan should include some small schools in the spirit of the District’s commitment to offering choice for families. Trustees will contribute to creating effective public engagement around this work, with the Moratorium Committee providing oversight, and its terms of reference shall be considered amended to include this function.

Trustee Janz: 2. Planning in the District shall continue to emphasize the importance of providing excellent educational opportunities experiences for all children and supporting neighbourhood schools to serve children and communities. The Board shall continue to advocate at the municipal level for urban renewal through new family-friendly housing and at the provincial level for adequate maintenance and infrastructure funding.

Leading up to the expiration of the Moratorium in November 2012, the Administration shall work with stakeholders, including students, parents, community members, tenants and other levels of government, to bring forward recommendations in December 2012 to take effect September 2013 for consolidation, expansions, right-sizing schools, space sharing with other districts, or replacement schools, including the possibility of school closure, using the following criteria:

a.       Consider schools that are located in the same city neighbourhood as, or less than 700 meters from another EPSB school and where there is comfortably enough space to bring together students in one facility while continuing to offer the existing range of grades and programming options.

b.      Consider schools which do not offer regular programming and which have an enrolment of less than 100 students.

c.       Consider schools which draw from an attendance area where there are less than 80 EPSB students residing at the elementary or junior high levels.

The Administration shall also conduct programming fit reviews at schools where a regular or alternative programming stream has enrollment of less than 80 students.

This work shall be informed by the District Priorities, with an emphasis on equity and healthy transportation, as well as the work of the Moratorium Committee, previous public consultation processes, and the recommendations included in the Elevate report to support strong schools and strong communities.

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.)

Can we say this is the case for every single one of our 197 schools? I don’t know the answer, but the motion above means that in certain circumstances, we need to be willing to hear about our options.

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

Are School Trustees Urban Planners?

Are school trustees urban planners? No.

Do decisions made by school board trustees impact city planning? Absolutely.

Twitter: Nov 7th 2012: “@michaeljanz: For the record- last tue at #epsb I argued to include new schools in our capital plan. There are kids in the SW #yeg who really need them.”

Part of the reason I ran for the school board was that I wanted to see a more integrated approach to how we build our communities– with the provincial, municipal, and school boards working together. Although it doesn’t get the same headlines as school closure related issues, I’m thrilled that our board has been working hard on many initiatives for kids like the anti-bullying work, special needs task force, and district priorities. 90% of my time I’m dealing with Education Policy related matters and hence why I’ve chosen to pursue a Masters in Education Policy Studies and not a Masters in urban planning!

I’m glad our board had the opportunity to participate in the community sustainability task force and I hope it leads to more collaborative planning in the future. I look forward to a more coordination and discussion in the future!

Like city council, we need to understand that a city is a complex organism and decisions made by one level of government have dramatic effects upon other entities. Political decisions made in isolation can trigger trickle-down effects that severely impact the work of other levels of government.

If the School Board decides to open a new school, change a neighbourhood school to a magnet site, move yellow bus service, or close a school, all of these decisions have urban planning applications for the whole neighbourhood. Conversely, if the city is going to make transportation decisions that lead to unsafe streets around schools, even though that decision isn’t the jurisdiction of school trustees, you can bet that they should speak up!

Edmonton’s growth plan (in practice) continues to be sprawl-baby-sprawl and has not made family and seniors-friendly infill densification a priority. There’s some nice language in The Way We Grow but in reality development continues outside rather than inside the Henday. Continuing to green-light more sprawl neighbourhoods creates enormous pressure on school boards to meet the educational needs of families who are living further and further away from existing schools.

In the short term, I do support new schools in areas of need. In the long-term, I hope that we will be able to incentivize more families to return to existing neighbourhoods where we have already paid for services. But this won’t happen overnight, and the buck stops with the city of Edmonton and the capital region board on growth decisions. Until then, wherever the children live in Edmonton, we have an obligation to ensure they receive a top-notch Edmonton Public education.

If the city changed its development priorities we could get more families back into our mature neighbourhoods, keep schools open, and save money. The school board could save on transportation and hire more teachers instead. It’s the fiscally prudent thing to do.

If established communities want to keep their schools open— Separate or Public—then we need to make it easy for the kids to live where the schools already are.

The Mayor is right, we do need a variety of housing choices in the city, but we also need a variety of housing choices in the neighbourhoods we have already built! We’ve already invested billions of dollars in the core of our city in our schools, playgrounds, parks, and pools, let’s not let it waste and crumble!

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

EPSB Board Highlights 2010-2011

Edmonton Public School Board Highlights 2010-2011

Click to enlarge and view 2010 EPSB Priorities

Please take a look at the attached .jpg containing some of our highlights from the 2010-2011 year.

As the board reconvenes tomorrow for our first fall meeting, it is important to take a moment to reflect on what we have accomplished since November and look ahead at the year to come. I feel on many issues our board has made significant headway, but there is still much that I would like to accomplish.

As I wrote in my first blog post, our mental concentration can be like a flashlight beam. If you don’t focus your efforts and energies on the big issues that matter most, you can get derailed by administrivia and smaller, less-pressing matters.

What most needs doing?

I pose the question to you and encourage you to email me michael.janz@epsb.ca with your own suggestions and priorities. If you haven’t signed up for our Ward F newsletter, click here.

EPSB Board of Trustees

2010 – 2011 Highlights

The previous school year was a productive one for Edmonton Public Schools’ Board of Trustees. Trustees focused on engaging with Edmonton communities and ensuring all students have a safe and caring learning environment.

• Developed the new District vision, mission and set of priorities

• Introduced live webcasting of public board meetings (www.livestream.com/edmontonpublicschools)

• Imposed a two-year moratorium on school closures and initiated the formation of a School Closure Moratorium Committee to explore ways to keep schools open

• Created a Special Needs Task Force that provided recommendations to promote an inclusive learning environment for students with special needs

• Participated in the Community Sustainability Task Force

• First Board in Prairies to approve the development of a board policy on sexual orientation and gender identity to ensure a welcoming environment for all students and staff

• Established an Anti-Bullying Advisory Committee that provided recommendations to prevent bullying

• Re-prioritized capital plan to place a high priority on modernizing existing schools

• Continued work with all orders of government and other partners to advocate for adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for education

Aging School Buildings and Infrastructure Deficit


New Report “Opportunity Rich Schools and Sustainable Communities”

The good folks at the Cities and Schools Centre at UC Berkeley have published a report with seven recommendations for alignment between different levels of government and decision makers. I had a chance to hear from them when they were in Edmonton and I think their research is valuable in our journey to strengthen our community schools and the educational opportunities in our neighbourhoods.

I especially appreciate their cross-silo approach. It acknowledges that trustees, MLAs, City Councillors, bureaucrats, non-profits, community leagues– all members and interest groups contribute to the strength and health of our public education system and the success of our students depends on more than just their school trustees. As the saying goes, “it takes a village…”

To Download the report please click here:


Deborah L. McKoy, Jeffrey M. Vincent, and Ariel H. Bierbaum.
In 2010 the What Works Collaborative invited CC&S to examine the ways in which sustainable community planning could work with school leaders to foster positive educational outcomes.

The report illustrates policies and strategies at all levels of government are increasingly associating educational outcomes with community planning and housing. Challenges remain for local officials and practitioners trying to align these policy areas, including persistent spatial inequity and rigid institutional silos. Through the research, we developed seven steps to link education and planning policy at the local level.

We draw from a national scan of model activities, interviews with key experts and agency staff members, and the authors’ experience working with local governing bodies. The report identifies practical solutions that encompass assessing the current educational environment, engaging the community, strategic planning and implementation of investment, and institutionalizing successful innovations.

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!

Ward Gathering Recap: Celebrating our communities and our neighbourhood schools

First Ward Gathering a success:
How do we increase the number of families living in our mature neighbourhoods?
This very important question was the trailhead into a wide-ranging discussion hosted April 7th by myself and Ward 10 Councillor Don Iveson. Approximately 40 local community leaders gathered to discuss community revitalization, keeping schools open, family and seniors friendly housing and much more.
School Closures are still a hot topic in the media and our ward gathering was mentioned in Metro, the Examiner, and on inews880/630CHED.
Discussion was wide ranging and leaders present were given a homework assignment to continue the conversation at their school councils and community leagues. We asked each of the participants to take back to their organization two questions:
If it meant your neighbourhood had a greater chance of retaining their school:
1. Would the community be willing to encourage more density and infill?
2. What would that infill look like and where would it be?
As our city continues to sprawl, the pressure for providing new services, libraries, parks, roads, and schools for new developments continues to reduce the funding available for maintaining infrastructure in the core. The city has started to signal an intention to move towards a more compact, walkable, urban city, but last year only 7% of new developments were in the core. Low enrollment continues to put schools in mature neighbourhoods at risk of closure or consolidation. Leaders present stressed the need for complete communities with vibrancy, ammenities, and the need for us as residents of mature neighbourhoods to tell the story about how our communities are safe, desirable, and worth investing in.
This was the first Ward Gathering and I found it to be an empowering and engaging experience. The next gathering will be focused on student health and wellness and will be taking place in Riverbend in early June. They will always be an open invitation so bring a friend!

General Feedback:

This is an abridged summary of the 6 different discussions held April 7th, 2011. I couldn’t type out all of the feedback verbatim, but if I missed something please leave a comment below and I’ll update the lists.
– Complete communities are important with a variety of housing types, transportation options, access to learning and shopping, and recreation.
– Strong schools make for strong communities.
– We need to embrace family and senior friendly infill that will open up new opportunities for families to move back into mature neighbourhoods while allowing other segments of the population to age in place. More infill can help revitalize and bring new energy to neighbourhoods in need of revitalization.
– Social isolation and the aging population will increasingly mean we need to do more to support our aging populations and ensure they are not living in auto-dependant suburbs.
– Residents of mature neighbourhoods love our communities and need to do a better job of celebrating why they are so special. The old comfy pair of jeans that is ‘broken in’ is much better than the
– Edmonton should embrace progressive taxation and incentives to encourage infill to encourage more families to move into the core. Offsets should be placed on new and proposed neighbourhoods like Mayor Nenshi has proposed in Calgary.
– Incentives must be found to help increase the number of families in the core
– Choice programs and open boundaries can be both a blessing and a curse as in some cases the children do not go to the neighbourhood school, while in other cases a program of choice keeps the school open.
– If the city does not densify and continues to sprawl, the tax burden to build new schools, roads, and infrastructure will become unsustainable and might tax more seniors and families out of their homes. Increased population density is economically efficient and will help keep taxes down.
Question one: What attracts families back into the core?
– Schools, parks infrastrucutre: BIG TREES!
– Close to parks and schools so shorter commute times
– The broken pair of comfy jeans is better than breaking in a new one
– Save money by driving less and living closer to libraries, recreation, shopping and other amenities.
– Lower property taxes and financial measures to help make the neighbourhoods more desirable
– Abandon the mexaplex model for recreation centers and focus on smaller, more widely distributed pools and recreation centers.
– Attach costs of new schools and infrastructure to new developments so they don’t deplete dollars from existing infrastrucutre
– How do we promote our neighbourhood schools?
– How can we increase and promote the early childhood education, preschool and childcare programs in schools?
– If parents are driving their kids to school and many work at the U of A or downtown, how can we make our schools desired destinations?
– How can we increase the variety of housing available in mature communities?
Question two: What can CITIZENS do to?
– Sing the praises of our mature neighbourhood through block parties, celebrations, and other events that showcase the community. Especially showcase safety- our neighbourhoods are safe!
– Ensure that we work together to ensure our neighbourhoods are clean and presentable and just as attractive as a new neighbourhood.
– Instead of opposing new developments, working to ensure they are family-friendly, seniors-friendly that can help revitalize our neighbourhoods.
– Understand that our city is constantly in flux and change and that we need to think holistically about our advocacy when it comes to new developments
– Vote, and engage our communities in the electoral process.
– Join their community league, work to strengthen the relationship between their neighbourhood and their local school.
– Co-housing was raised as an innovative new initiative that is starting in Edmonton. It might be coming to a community near you.
– Shop local, help to increase your communities walkability and safety.
– Get further involved in the EFCL through initiatives such as community league day and the Living Local campaign.
– Start a neighbourhood e-newsletter and hold regular potlucks and block parties. Vibrant communities attract more families!

Public invitation to our School Closure Moratorium Committee Meetings

These meetings will be held in public at the dates and times below. In an effort to increase our transparency and the public dialogue about the pressures the district is facing with regard to school space, we will be hosting our committee meetings in public. This is common practice with Edmonton City Council and I think is a step in the right direction for our board and I would like to see more committees move in this direction in future.

Planning on attending? Can’t make it? Fire your feedback over to michael@michaeljanz.ca. I look forward to hearing from you.

Click on the invitation for it to open in a new browser window. You can download the .jpg and I’d encourage you to email it or post it at your local community center.

Please share this invitation

Our team is working hard to find long-term solutions to strong schools and strong communities