PARRY SOUND - Parents and students might not like it, but, as it stands right now, Parry Sound High School will become a Grade 7 to 12 school next year.
In preparation for the incoming students, administration at Parry Sound High School are working to make the students as welcome and safe as possible. At Tuesday nights School Advisory Council meeting, Principal Andy Gagne answered questions regarding what the changes would mean for the new students and how the administration plans to make the changes work.
One major concern for parents of children entering the high school is how staff plan to protect Grade 7 students from being bullied by the much larger Grade 12 students.
Gagne said he does not anticipate that bullying from the oldest students will be a problem.
“We don’t have kids swinging from the rafters going after kids. There will be a social, emotional change. It will be a growth change for all of us, and how we protect our kids. The kids aren’t out of control at the high school - that’s just a myth, it doesn’t happen. Are the kids out of control behind Mike’s Mart? Yes, but if your daughter isn’t there, and she’s here, we can keep her safe.”
He emphasized that the upcoming changes to the school are still very new and that any plans being made are in the very early stages.
One idea that has been discussed, is to designate a wing of the school for the elementary students. That area would be a no-go zone for senior students. Gagne said he plans to have parents walk through the school and discuss with staff any ideas they may have about where the younger students should be located.
Gagne said the school has multiple measures in place to protect students at the school including cameras and a dedicated staff.
“We’re never going to eradicate it from every high school in Ontario or any elementary school. What I can say factually and truthfully is we don’t have Grade 12s walking around beating up Grade 9 kids,” Gagne said.
“What we see is friction between kids who are closest in age. We’re worried about some friction between our 9s and our 8s. We’re not worried about our Grade 7 kids being bullied by our grade 12 kids.”
Over the next few months, the high school plans to welcome groups of elementary students to the high school so they can get a feel for the layout. A transition team of school staff is also being put together to visit similar schools to determine how the configuration can work best in Parry Sound.
Other concerns raised by parents included the potential of young students getting pregnant from the more mature students.
“We have a healthy Phys. Ed program that speaks to that. Without being flip, most likely the pregnancy issue didn’t happen at the school it happened after hours... I hope. Here we provide the educational material. We supervise our kids. We won’t have Grade 7 and 8 kids on over night trips with Grade 11 and 12s,” said Gagne.