Will community hubs help to fix our schools? This remains to be seen…
This past spring, Kathleen Wynne appointed a nine-person Community Hub Framework Advisory Group, led by Special Advisor Karen Pitre, to review provincial policies and develop a framework for adapting existing public properties to become community hubs. The Advisory Group released “Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan” on August 10. This report candidly points out that “provincial policies and processes are overly complicated, often fragmented and are driven by ministry-specific requirements rather than being viewed through a lens of community needs and outcomes.”
The report outlines many longer-term recommendations to overcome these barriers – such as the creation of a provincial “lead entity” to help build bridges between provincial ministries, municipalities, school boards, health agencies, employers, immigration services and recreation centres – all the players that can be involved in creating a community hub. The report also recommends a short-term strategy for schools for immediate implementation. Although Pitre is clear that “we’re not going to save all schools — this is not a save-the-school strategy”, she did point out that, “we may need a longer planning process, because once a public asset is lost, it’s gone for good.”
The Advisory Group was realistic about what its report could accomplish and urged the Province to consider it the “beginning of a sustained conversation between communities, municipalities, local groups and the Province”.