ALMAGUIN – A few local schools might be on the chopping block.
Land of Lakes Senior Public School.
The Near North District School Board is reviewing possible scenarios to deal with underutilized schools and declining enrolment as it works through its 2012 budget.
“(These) scenarios are for discussion only at this point and have been identified for review down the road,” said Near North District School Board information officer Carrie Girard.
According to Girard, one possible scenario would involve implementing a Grade 7 to 12 model at Almaguin Highlands Secondary School (AHSS). In this scenario, Grades 7 and 8 students from Land of Lakes Public School in Burk’s Falls would move to AHSS and students from Kindergarten to Grade 6 from M.A. Wittick Public School in Burk’s Falls would move to Land of Lakes, which would leave M.A. Wittick Public School vacant.
According to the board’s last enrolment count, which took place on October 31, 2011,
AHSS has 621 students, Land of Lakes has 209, and M.A. Wittick has 189.
A second possibility would see Kindergarten to Grade 6 students from Magnetawan Central School moving to Whitestone Lake Public School, leaving Magnetawan Central School vacant.
Magnetawan Mayor Sam Dunnett said it’s too soon to determine what the best option is.
“It all depends on the pros outweighing the cons,” said Dunnett, noting the school board told him nothing would change in Magnetawan for at least the next two years, if at all. “People are amendable to change, but they’re going to want to see a change that is beneficial.”
According to the board, Magnetawan Central has 44 students, while Whitestone Lake is sitting at 52.
Dunnett said if the schools were to merge, he would want to be sure that the students’ education would be boosted by the change by way of better educational programming.
“Of course parents are going to be concerned, but a better education leads to better chances for employment,” he said. “It’s not just about closing a school. You have to look at the aftermath.”
Thirdly, the board is considering moving Kindergarten through Grade 6 students from South River Public School, which has an enrolment of 136 students, to Sundridge Centennial Public School, which has 161, leaving South River Public School vacant.
In North Bay, changes are already underway.
A motion to make the move to implement a Grade 7 to Grade 12 model at West Ferris Secondary School passed unanimously at the board’s most recent accommodation committee meeting before receiving board approval at its regular meeting the next night, on March 27.
The nest phase of the North Bay resolution is to close up to five elementary schools and building one new school.