The Near North District School Board has received between $10 million and $15 million from the province to fix up several schools in the area. That may sound like a lot of money, but Near North Chair Dave Thompson says its actually only 10% of what the estimated repair bills are for the board. It was estimated last year that the Near North board requires more than $100 million for repairs and upgrades. A number of schools are scheduled to get new windows, roof repairs and either exterior or interior doors. Thompson says June, July and August are when the renewal work is done.
Thompson says they deal with repair bills for existing schools every year. He says it’s not like dealing with new building constructions where they can go five or ten years without needing repairs. Thompson says this is a challenge every school board, not just Near North, is dealing with. They have aging infrastructure, and there’s only a small pot of money that they can use to repair their schools every year. Thompson says every year they’re getting further and further behind.
One potential fix to the education funding issue for northern and rural schools is multi-year funding. It’s something that Thompson and other trustees at Near North have asked the province and the Ministry of Education for. School boards are told to have multi-year planning and strategies, but Thompson says it would be great to have multi-year funding so they could better plan for the future. In the discussions with the ministry, Thompson hopes the message of multi-year funding has been received so they can plan accordingly.
The funding discussion also ties back to the big decision the board of trustees has to make next month on the future of three high schools in North Bay. Thompson says future funding for schools will be a consideration when trustees make their decision, as will programming. Thompson finished by saying it’s all tied together, but there’s no simple answer right now to solve the problem.