School board to pull out of educational programs at Sprucedale
The Grand Erie District School Board says it will pull out of providing educational services at Sprucedale Youth Centre in June 2018. (Simcoe Reformer photo)
The Grand Erie District School Board has decided to stop providing educational services at Sprucedale Youth Centre in Simcoe.
The board has had staff working at the centre, a custodial facility for male young offenders, aged 13 to 18, since the local school boards amalgamated in 1998.
“A shortfall in funding made it difficult for Grand Erie to maintain its involvement with Sprucedale,” superintendent of education Liana Thompson said in an e-mail.
She said the shortfall involved how the summer school program at Sprucedale is funded.
“Grand Erie has been subsidizing additional costs to operate the program for several years,” said Thompson.
“It is based on additional personnel costs that are not factored in with the Ministry of Education funding structure. These include human resources, such as teacher replacement costs, for which we are not fully funded by the Ministry of Education.”
According to the board’s 2017-18 budget, the cost to run the educational services at Sprucedale is $1.04 million.
The board currently has a principal, secretary, six teachers and two educational assistants working at the facility.
Brenda Blancher, Grand Erie director of education, said in an e-mail that the decision to terminate its agreement with Sprucedale came “after much deliberation.”
The board will continue providing educational services at the youth centre until June 30, 2018.
“Grand Erie will remove all of its resources, staff, personnel and equipment effective on the termination date,” says a letter sent to the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
Tristan Austin, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, said there are currently 20 youths at Sprucedale but “counts vary on a daily basis.”
Thompson said the small number of young offenders at the facility wasn’t a factor in the school board’s decision.
Sprucedale is classified as a medium-security facility.
Programs and services are intended to “keep youth active and engaged, focus on specific risks and needs of youth related to reoffending, teach new skills, help youth resolve conflict and make better choices when they return to the community,” said Austin in an e-mail.
He said that the Ministry of Children and Youth Services is working with the Ministry of Education and the Grand Erie board to “better understand the circumstances that led to this decision and work towards developing next steps.
“At this time, we continue to gather more information and are communicating with our partners to discuss potential resolutions. No matter what the outcome of those discussions, youth will continue to receive quality educational programming while in our care.”
Structured programming, Austin said, can include education, addiction counselling, anger management, life skills, recreation and cultural programs.
Thompson said staff displaced by the changes at Sprucedale “would be subject to our regular staffing processes in preparation for the 2018-19 school year.”