High school to host Grades 7-12 in 2013
Parry Sound High School
Roland Cillers/Beacon Star
Parry Sound High School will accept students from Grades 7 through 12 starting next fall.
PARRY SOUND - Parry Sound High School’s freshman class will be two years younger in 2013.
A decision by Near North District School Board on Tuesday means Grade 7 and 8 students from William Beatty School, Nobel School and McDougall School will attend Parry Sound High School as of September 2013.
Chair of the Near North District School Board Kathey Hewitt said the decision was made based on a combination of factors that includes the belief that it will give Grade 7 and 8 students access to better facilities.
“We have empty schools, and we have to start consolidating them so this is part of that consolidation process,” Hewitt said. “The high schools are also low in number, and we have to utilise the space in those as well, so it’s a multi-faceted decision. It’s not one thing.”
By entering the high school at a younger age, Grade 7 and 8 students will have access to a greater variety of programs than they would have had if they had stayed in their elementary school.
In a letter sent home to parents of students at William Beatty School on Wednesday, Geof Botting, Director of Education with the school board explained the reasoning for the change.
“The decision was primarily based on enhanced programming opportunities for our intermediate students in the areas of science, physical education, music, shops and other areas,” said Botting in the letter.
Some councillors objected to the process used to make the decision. Hewitt said it was the same process used when other schools in the district were turned into Grade 7 to 12 schools. She said it would not have been fair if they hadn’t taken a uniform approach across the board.
“There was not a consultation process beforehand. There will be a consultation process which at this very minute is being put in place,” said Hewitt. “The principals were involved in discussions, as we normally do, when we’re discussing changes and getting information.”
The vote on the matter was not recorded and so a complete list of which trustees voted for and against the resolution is not available.
Al Bottomley, trustee for Zone 5, said he voted against it because he believes public consultation should have gone out on the resolution beforehand.
The move is not without precedent. Three years ago Chippewa Secondary School in North Bay became a Grade 7 to 12 school. This year F.J. McElligott Secondary School in Mattawa also became a Grade 7 to 12 school.
“The North Bay trustees are in love with this model, and it makes sense in North Bay,” said Bottomley. “I think one of the concepts is if you have a large building you should keep it and fill it because you get a better cost per student, and that’s the theory behind it.”
Several parents of affected children have expressed concern over the changes.
Questions regarding how the new school will operate and what this means for extended French students have been asked.
Anelia Coppes, council chair at Parry Sound High School, said she believes a Grade 7 to 12 school will have positive benefits for children, but she was disappointed with the process the board decided to take.
“Parents and the Parry Sound community were not part of the process in this decision,” said Coppes. “There has been no community consultation regarding this, parents have had no opportunity to give input and feedback. I find that very disappointing... parents don’t know what they don’t know.”
Coppes said it has been rumoured at the board for some time that the high school would become a Grade 7 to 12 school, but the administration did not ask for parent input.
Coppes is a member of the NNDSB Parent Involvement Committee, the Parent Network with People for Education, several Ministry of Education focus groups and the Globe and Mail Special Education Panel. She also considers herself an involved parent, but said she had never heard this change was coming.
“PSHS School Council was not notified about this. I knew nothing about this until the announcement [Wednesday],” Coppes said.
The board plans to look into the closing of additional elementary schools in the near future, but, at present, no decision has been made regarding when and which schools.