PARRY SOUND – The school board motion to rescind may have been defeated, but Parry Sound parent’s haven’t been.
Parents protest at the Parry Sound teleconference of Tuesday night’s Near North District School Board meeting. Roughly 30 community members attended the local teleconference while another 25 made the trip to North Bay to attend the meeting in person.
Roland Cilliers/Beacon Star
Tuesday night’s school board meeting resulted in the deferment of a September decision to move Grade 7/8 students from area elementary schools into Parry Sound High School. As a result of the new deferment, the Grade 7 and 8 students will now be moving to the high school in September 2014 with an Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) taking place in the meantime.
Roughly 25 parents made the trip to North Bay for the meeting while another 30 watched the meeting via teleconference at Parry Sound High School. Response from parents in attendance was mixed, with some feeling it was a partial victory and others seeing it as the continuation of actions that ignore community wishes.
“I think it was disgusting,” said parent Sue Bartels following the meeting. “They didn’t rescind the original motion to send them in 2013, and then they passed a motion to send them in 2014 with an ARC for implementation, but not an ARC to decide new options.”
Throughout the meeting, parents held up signs in the Parry Sound teleconference room that implored the board to “Rescind” and “Listen.” When the vote to rescind came, only three of nine board members voted to rescind thus defeating the motion.
Several community members felt the deferment was more about making the board look good to the ministry and greater public than it was about responding to the concerns of Parry Sound parents.
Tracey Armstrong-Bye believes the result of the board meeting isn’t a loss for Parry Sound parents, but it also wasn’t a victory.
“This is [board chair Kathy Hewitt’s] way of saving face to the public - not to us. We need parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles anyone who has an opinion on this to speak up, because North Bay just looked at us as a very small group,” said Armstrong-Bye. “I’ve talked to hundreds of people who have very strong opinions about it and they’re not getting heard, and they need to get heard.”
She said the fight against the change isn’t over yet, and community members need to continue with their opposition.
During the board meeting, parents were able to submit written questions. Only a handful of attendees, both in Parry Sound and in North Bay, chose to do so.
Questions asked included; why there was such a hurry to move the Grade 7 and 8 students, and whether the board had considered the additional cost that will come from transporting students from the rural areas.
Some parents attending the Parry Sound teleconference of the meeting thought the way the board members responded to questions and addressed the audience showed a disrespect for the community.
“Have you ever seen anything as dysfunctional as that?” asked John Forsey. “They haven’t listened to the community again. It’s clear that the community has spoken, they want consultation they don’t just want the decision delayed. They don’t believe in the decision to begin with.”
Recent posts to the “Stop Grade 7 & 8 students from going to PSHS” Facebook group have included concerns that the upcoming ARC will only be used to generate input on how best to move the elementary students into Parry Sound High School and will not be receptive to alternate ideas for solutions to the boards decreased enrollment problems.
A few parents at the Parry Sound teleconference were optimistic about what the decision would mean.
“I would have liked to have seen it rescinded, but, other than that, it’s another good thing. At least we have an extra year to get it right, and not just shove our kids somewhere and it could be just the guinea pigs and let’s see if it works or not. At least it gives us a year to decide what is the right way to do it to the high school,” said Maureen Willis.
In November the parameters for the ARC will be set. At that point, it will be determined what exactly the committee will be looking at.