Recommendations to improve the school review process have been introduced in amendments to the Education Act. The proposed amendments, introduced today, March 21, by Education Minister Karen Casey, reflect seven recommendations brought forward by a two-member committee in February. “These amendments would give communities a clear, predictable process that ensures all voices and considerations are heard before a decision about the future of a school is made,” said Ms. Casey. The proposed amendments, and resulting changes that would be made to the regulations at a later date, would: — remove the word “closure” from references to the process in the act and regulations, recognizing that a closure is just one of several possible outcomes; — clarify the criteria for identifying schools for review; — require board staff to prepare a report on each school being reviewed, to which a study committee would respond; — extend the school review process from four months to one year; — encourage school staff and administration, and require school advisory councils, where they exist, to participate on study committees; — require the principals of schools affected by a closure to jointly develop a transition strategy for the affected students; and — require school boards to follow the review process before consolidating schools. If the amendments are passed, the government would develop regulations to recognize mitigating factors that should be considered in a school review. These include, but are not limited to, transportation issues, projected economic growth and geographic isolation. “School boards, educators, parents and other concerned citizens told us how to improve the school review process and we are acting on their suggestions,” said Ms. Casey. If the amendments are passed during the current sitting of the House, school boards could submit their first list of schools for review on April 1, 2008, to start the process, which would conclude on March 31, 2009. No school would close or be consolidated through this process before the summer of 2009.