In North Bay, move of Grade 7/8 students goes without controversy
PARRY SOUND - Not every community believes moving 12-year-olds into the high school is a bad idea.
At the Near North District School Board meeting Monday night, trustees passed a motion that would move the Grade 7 and 8 students from one North Bay area elementary school into one of the city’s high schools.
What may come as a surprise about the move to many in Parry Sound, is that the motion went through with almost no opposition from the North Bay Community and a unanimous recommendation in support from their Accommodation Review Committee (ARC).
Randy Sheppard, the board trustee who sat on the West Ferris ARC in a non-voting role, said the process went by very quietly.
“There was not one word of dissension. It was 100 per cent of the committee that had a vote, voted to transfer the 7 and 8s over,” said Sheppard. “It was the quietest ARC I’ve ever been on. You can see, even at the last meeting, it was well advertised, not something that just came out of the blue. Nobody showed up with a question. There were people in the audience, but no questions.”
This is a stark contrast to the experience here in Parry Sound. Since the plan to move Grade 7 and 8 students into Parry Sound High School was announced, it generated a flurry of opposition from the community, including petitions, protests and calls for trustee resignations.
Early opposition to the plan centered around the belief that the board had gone ahead with the relocation without consulting the community first.
As the ARC process has now completed its first meeting, opposition to the proposed relocation is still going strong.
Paul Addie facilitated the West Ferris ARC and is currently facilitating the Parry Sound one.
“Every community is different, and many, many communities have gone Grade 7 to 12 in order to keep their high schools open and their elementary schools viable. The controversy there in Parry Sound has not been replicated in some other communities,” said Addie.
Similar to the Parry Sound ARC, the one in West Ferris additionally dealt with relocating elementary students from two smaller elementary schools into a newly refurbished one. It also saw staff and students from Chippewa Secondary School, where Grade 7 and 8 students currently attend, present to the committee on the experience of including the intermediate students at the school.
“I believe we also had a student from West Ferris talk about all the transition activities that would occur in order to allow the 7 and 8s to come over to minimize their fears that they were comfortable with the move. The community saw it as a good move,” Addie said.
Over the next few months Parry Sound community members will be able to have their voices heard on the issue of moving their Grade 7 and 8 students into the High School. Public delegations to the committee will begin at the second meeting scheduled for March 20.
Dave Pipke, one of the voting parent or guardian members on the West Ferris ARC, said while he can’t speak for everyone on the committee he felt the move was the best option before them.
“It has already been done with one of the schools in our area in the city, and it’s been proven fairly successful,” Pipke said. “It’s been done in other parts of the province and proven fairly successful so when we formed and sat on the ARC we invited public input and didn’t receive a lot. The lack of any other solution coming forward meant we recommended the original proposal.”