Ontario schools will become busy community ‘hubs’

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Ontario is investing nearly $90 million dollars to expand child care and child and family support programs in schools and create spaces in schools for community use.

As a response to recommendations in Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan, the province committed to supporting the use of schools as community hubs. Community hubs bring together and integrate a range of needed services under one roof to better serve their communities. A community hub can be a school, neighbourhood centre or other public space that houses coordinated services. Ontario’s nearly 5,000 schools offer the ideal location for community hubs, as many of them are the heart of their community and are accessible.

As part of Friday’s $90 million investment to further enable the development of community hubs, the province will provide:

  • $20 million to create space for new child care and child and family support programs through Ontario Early Years Child and Family Centres in schools
  • $18 million to retrofit existing child care space within a school to open up more spaces for children under four years old
  • $50 million to renovate surplus school space to make it available for use by community partners and the public
  • Expanded eligibility for school capital funding to include building replacement space for eligible community partners in new schools or additions to existing schools in the event their original school location is closed.

The government said in  a news release that the province was also making it easier for community partners to create community hubs in schools by expanding the list of public organizations able to purchase or lease surplus school property before it is placed on the open market. This list will now include Children’s Mental Health Agencies, First Nations and Métis Organizations and others. More time will also be allowed for organizations to place an offer, allowing greater opportunity for continued use of these properties by the community.

Improving community access and increasing services offered in schools is part of the government’s economic plan to build Ontario up and deliver on its number one priority – growing the economy and creating jobs. The four-part plan includes investing in talent and skills, including helping more people get and create the jobs of the future by expanding access to high-quality college and university education. The plan is also making the largest investment in public infrastructure in Ontario’s history and investing in a low-carbon economy driven by innovative, high-growth, export-oriented businesses. The plan is also helping working Ontarians achieve a more secure retirement.

Karen Pitre, Special Advisor to the Premier on Community Hubs and Chair of the Community Hubs Framework Advisory Group, said: “Today’s announcement responds to the recommended short-term strategy for schools in Community Hubs in Ontario: A Strategic Framework and Action Plan. We have heard that community partners need more time and information in order to consider opportunities to use schools as hubs. I am very pleased that Ontario is making changes to help local partners better serve their communities.” – CINEWS

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