ARC meetings underway
By Roland Cilliers
February 27, 2013
PARRY SOUND - The Near North District School Board wasn’t quite ready for the Parry Sound community.
The first Parry Sound Accommodation Review Committee (ARC) meeting was held Thursday night, and the event was dominated by community and committee member requests for more information. Those assembled used the meeting as a chance to request expanded information regarding affected schools from the board for use in future ARC meetings.
The 22 members of the committee, only eight of which are voting members, have been assigned the task of developing a recommendation on both the relocation of students from Nobel School to McDougall School and the controversial plan to move Grade 7 and 8 students from area elementary schools to Parry Sound High School (PSHS).
Paul Addie, facilitator for the committee, introduced the ARC’s mandate, spoke to the roughly 80 attendees and responded to questions and requests.
“I can assure you by the end of the process everyone will have their say, including those of you who aren’t members of the ARC,” said Addie. “We’ve already seen some submissions from a couple of people tonight for the ARC.”
The board provided several pages of information to those in attendance, including a breakdown of the current population and capacities at Parry Sound High School, Nobel School and McDougall School. Notably, the chart revealed that Nobel enrollment as of October 31 was 137, while it has the capacity for 328 - a surplus capacity of 191.
Of particular relevance to the question of moving Grade 7 and 8 students into Parry Sound High School were the released numbers on the affected grades and what they would do to the population of the high school. By adding the Grade 7 and 8 students of McDougall and Nobel schools to the high school the board would be adding an additional 69 students to the school.
Both committee members and attending parents requested population numbers on the other elementary schools that would likely have Grade 7 and 8 students moving into Parry Sound High School. Additional requests were made to add additional committee members to better reflect the affected communities and for statistics on the numbers for the school currently planned for construction on Beatty Street in Parry Sound.
The meeting also resulted in an agreement on what would constitute a consensus of the committee. It was agreed that 75 per cent of the voting members would need to vote in favor of a motion for it to be deemed the consensus opinion.
“Our committees don’t always reach consensus and actually last night in North Bay you may or may not have heard we had an ARC meeting with two options left on the table. A 12-person ARC committee, six voted for option one and the other six voted for option three, which were the options on the table,” said Addie.
Regardless of what the ARC’s recommendation is, it is still possible for the Near North District School Board to ignore it.
“Is the board going to move ahead with this in spite of community opinion?” said Addie. “The answer is, we have a board decision. They’ve asked for a full year, and they’ve asked for community input. If the community opposes the movement of the Grade 7 and 8s, that’s consensus at this table with the input you hear. We will need to recommend to the board an alternative solution. It’s on the table.”
Community deputations were not heard at Thursday’s meeting. The public will have an opportunity to make deputations at the second and third meetings.
ARCs are becoming fairly commonplace around the province, and specifically within the Near North Board. This is the third one the board has held in the recent past and there are plans for two more.
Paul Moffat, the ARC’s second facilitator, explained the board’s need for school closures.
“The board in the next 10,11, 12 years is going to be at around 5,600 students - which is a decline from 16,000 to 5,600 in 20 years. The government has made it very clear to boards it is not going to have much money available,” said Moffat.
The second ARC meeting is scheduled for March 20 at McDougall Public School. The third meeting is set for April 18 at Nobel Public School and the fourth will be on May 16 at Parry Sound High School. All meetings start at 6:30 p.m. and run until 8:30 p.m.
The eight voting members include four caregivers; Christopher Benner and Kelly Krist Hergaarden for McDougall School and Greg Mason and Leigh Spinney for Nobel School. There are two student representatives; Grace O’Brien and Jay Krause. The one community member is Donald Sanderson. Steve General is the First Nation Representative.
The 14 non-voting members include six caregivers; Patrisha Hamer and Carla Salt for Victory School, Melissa McKeown and Darrin O’Brien for William Beatty Public School and Claudette Forde and John Forsey for Parry Sound High School. Also on the committee but with no vote is facilitator Paul Addie, superintendent of schools Tim Graves and board trustee Debbie Williams. Five principals also sit on the committee in a non-voting role including Andy Gagne of Parry Sound High School, Laurie Payne of William Beatty, Julie Beaudoin of Victory, Dawn Buckland of Nobel School and Ursula Stilson of McDougall School.
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