The number of schools slated to close in Ontario now sits at 172, with the fate of 163 more hanging in the balance, according to a new report released yesterday by People for Education.

Instead of shutting schools down, consideration should be given to keeping some open and using the space to set up child, family and youth resources and programs, the advocacy group said.

“Children and families are like an eco-system. That health is connected to education, is connected to poverty, is connected to housing. That mental health is connected to youth engagement. Physical health affects kids’ ability to succeed,” said executive director Annie Kidder.

The report says as well as their traditional purpose, schools could become community hubs providing services such as daycare, parenting centres, community kitchens, public libraries and health clinics.

Enrolment is down primarily because of declining birth rates and people moving, Kidder said.

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