Principal Lewis: Grade 4 to 12 Seaway could be done

IROQUOIS — A Grade 4 to 12 Seaway school is possible according to a walk-through tour by Seaway District High School principal Don Lewis during the December 6th Accommodation Review Committee working meeting.

Lewis was one of the guests at the working meeting, which dealt with programming at Seaway and also with what was available at North Dundas and South Grenville high schools.

Lewis led ARC members and audience attendees from the gallery through the school highlighting possible changes and modifications that could be made to implement the board’s option 4 draft proposal.

That option called for Morrisburg Public School to close at the end of the 2016-17 school year, with Kindergarten to Grade 3 students from both schools being located in the Iroquois Public School building.

Grades 4 to 6 would move into a modified Seaway District High School building, turning that school into a Grade 4 to 12 school.

Lewis indicated he had discussed with the principals at MPS and IPS to find out numbers and needs of the students in the schools and then looked at ways of making it work at Seaway.

“It could be done,” said Lewis.

The 30 minute tour highlighted areas already used by intermediate (Grades 7 and 8) students downstairs, and where modifications would take place.

“Three classes downstairs would be needed,” said Lewis of the Grade 4-8 students.

Currently, one of the school’s three science labs is being used by the intermediate level students downstairs.

That lab would be turned back into a regular classroom; two other classrooms in that same area would be re-purposed for the intermediate classes.

The reshuffled classes downstairs would make room upstairs for the estimated six classes required for the Grade 4 to 6 students to move in.

All junior grade level students would be located upstairs, along with some Grade 7 and 8’s.

All high school classes currently on the second floor would be relocated to the first floor with the exception of the art class.

“It’s already set up as a specialized space, and it would be useful for both parts of the school to have access to,” said Lewis during the walk-through.

Lewis identified a few challenges to the plan with realigning the space inside.

The gymnasium is already used during most periods in the day, as is the fitness room. The gym can be subdivided, but is not feasible when hosting events or other activities. Lewis suggested that the music and drama rooms could be combined in the current music room, as the drama room is the largest of the classes in that portion of the school. The existing room could then be converted to a physical activity room for use in the school.

School yard activities, recess were addressed as well by Lewis, who stated that nutrition breaks and recess for the Grades 4-6 and the Grades 7-8 could be staggered to make use of the yard and school facilities.

Lewis stressed that students at the Grade 7-8 level are supervised now when outside of the classroom and that would continue if the school changed to a 4-12 model.

Addressing changes to for Grade 9-12 students, Lewis said there would not be a large impact on the school population at that level.

“Some teachers may have to share classroom space,” stated Lewis. “They would not have their own dedicated classroom anymore. This happened when the Grade 7-8’s started at TISS [Thousand Islands Secondary School] when I was there. It wasn’t a big deal.”

One other concern that Lewis addressed was the distance of the junior and intermediate students to the main office, if there were issues or if a parent needed to be contacted.

“At TISS we moved one of the office members to the area where the seven-eights were. That would work here,” said Lewis.

When asked by one of the ARC members if this would address programming issues at Seaway, Lewis indicated that it would not.

“It wouldn’t be any easier to make a time table for students,” said Lewis. “Would it be easier to schedule if we had a larger number of [high school] students, yes. But we are nimble.”

At the end of the tour, ARC committee chair, and superintendent for the SD&G schools Tim Mills added that this was only a scenario.

“I like how it was presented,” said Morning Mullin, a parent of children at Iroquois Public who was in the audience for the ARC working meeting.

“I think it is a long term solution that is viable. It is better than the alternative the board has provided.”

The next ARC working meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 24th at Seaway District High School, pending confirmation from the UCDSB.

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