The Government of Ontario is proposing giving the Ministry of Education the power to sell "surplus" school property.

On Monday, the provincial government introduced The Better Schools and Student Outcomes Act, which focuses on improving consistency and transparency across Ontario's school boards.

In addition to enhancing teacher training and refocusing the education system on reading, writing, and math, the proposed legislation includes establishing a framework for excess school property.

Surplus property, which may include buildings that won't be used to accommodate current or future students, could be leveraged for other provincial priorities, such as affordable housing and long-term care homes.

Before being offered to the Province, a property would first be presented to a coterminous school board (for example, a Catholic board could offer an unused school to a neighbouring public board).

If there is no educational use for the site and it doesn't fulfill a provincial priority, it will then be offered for sale on the open market, explained Education Minister Stephen Lecce. The proposed legislation would also give the minister the ability to direct a board to sell all or part of an unutilized school.

"It's about better maximizing our real estate portfolio," Lecce said. "Right boards are controlling their assets, we don't even know the inventory of what schools are available and not even being used for learning."

If passed, the legislation would enable the Minister to direct boards to operate schools in joint-use facilities, and require boards to work with municipalities to better plan for schools in alignment with Ontario's new Provincial Panning Statement.

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