IROQUOIS — The Accomodation Review Committee (ARC) 2a group, dealing with the proposed closure and consolidation of schools in South Dundas, met for a working meeting on December 6th at Seaway District High School.
The two-and-a-half hour long meeting featured a number of guests providing information to the ARC members, and a small audience with members of the public.
ARC chair, and SD&G superintendent for the Upper Canada District School Board Tim Mills guided members through the agenda, which was focused primarily on programming.
Mills prefaced the guests by stating that their questions from the last meeting were not verbatim but were of the “general sense” of what they were asking.
First up was Guy Lamarche, principal at South Grenville District High School, to answer questions and give an overview of programming at that school. Lamarche served as principal at Seaway during the transitional year when the Grade 7 and 8 students first moved into Seaway. He has served as principal at South Grenville for the past year and a half.
Lamarche stated that his school has six sections in the trades including automotive and hospitality, and that it is a large school. The school is able to offer hairdressing and has a teacher on staff who is accredited to teach the class when there is demand. The school offers one section of music and has been under renovation with the last sections of a brand new roof finishing up “soon”.
“There are renovations in case we receive a huge influx,” Lamarche told ARC members. Lamarche stated that he expected about 100 students. As reported in the November 30th issue of The Leader, UCDSB officials project that 222 students would be moved to South Grenville for the following school year should the proposed closure occur.
“We have few students taking online courses this year,” said Lamarche.
The school has two full-sized gymnasiums, one dedicated to the Grade 7 and 8 students. Lamarche stated that the school has some specialized programs in place to help with increasing math scores for students.
Asked by a committee member about attendance and suspension rates at South Grenville, Lamarche stated that some schools had more.
“We are below last year,” he said.
“When you look at the perception of the school to what is inside, it is better.”
The principal did state that they work well with local OPP and have 30 security cameras at the school to monitor hall ways and other areas of the school.
Seaway has 10 security cameras, as confirmed in an email from Seaway principal Don Lewis to The Leader.
Lamarche was upfront regarding EQAO testing scores stating there had been an improvement on the specific group or cohort from Grade 6 to Grade 9, but math was a “horrid” mark. In Grade 10 literacity EQAO testing, the school was up, above UCDSB average.
When asked about extra curricular activities, Lamarche talked of Grade 7 and 8 students having practices and games during the school day. No specifics were offered on how Grade 9 to 12 students would have access to extra curriculars with a merged school population.
Service access was brought up from outside agencies such as Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) but Lamarche was not able to provide details on how that would work crossing county boundaries.
“I don’t know,” said Lamarche. “We’ll try to work it out.”
Lamarche talked about their partnership with Connect Youth, a social development group that focuses on helping youth aged 14 to 21. The program is funded by the Leeds-Grenville YMCA, and area municipalities.
In scheduling Grade 7 and 8 students with the high schools, Grade 7 students operated on a staggered schedule to the high school students. The Grade 8’s are at the same lunch time as the high school students.
“I sympathize with all of the closures, but I want to welcome everyone if this occurs,” stated Lamarche, who also said that parents can call if they have any questions about the school.
The next guests were Brenda Beaudette, principal of North Dundas District High School and Don Lewis, principal at Seaway to discuss programming currently offered at the schools.
North Dundas offers two sections of after school music, Seaway offers one.
Beaudette explained North Dundas’ construction, automotive and manufacturing trades, as well as the high-skills major offered. Lewis explained the similar programs offered currently at Seaway. North Dundas offers an agriculture high-skills major similar to the one offered by Seaway.
Both schools have been adjusting to the change from the intensified French certificate program to the French immersion certificate. This change is due to Grade 9 students from the elementary and intermediate immersion programs now entering secondary school.
North Dundas’ principal explained that the school offers an after-school literacy program.
Both Beaudette and Lewis described their respective schools in excellent physical condition.
The Grade 7-8 classes at North Dundas are segregated from the secondary school population.
A question from the ARC committee members regarding the school split numbers was asked, to which the guests were unsure of the numbers.
As reported in the November 30th edition of The Leader 194 students are proposed to transfer to North Dundas, if Seaway closes. When asked about the split-grades or split-level classes that occur at the secondary level now, if adding the students from Seaway to North Dundas will help prevent that, officials had no clear answer.
“I can’t promise to eliminate split classes,” answered Lewis.
“We have hard caps on the number of kids in a class. It [higher numbers] may help with speciaty courses.”
“Only Grade 11 and 12 students take online courses unless it’s a special circumstance,” said Beaudette.
“Online courses are down this year. Course offerings are driven by student choice.”
Surveys and Feedback
After a discussion of the programming, Mills directed ARC members to the feedback received so far.
“Are we getting feedback from everyone,” asked Mills.
Mills went on to say that when people have taken part in the feedback survey on the UCDSB board’s proposals, it is not direct on what people will do should their school close.
“We need to hear that direct feedback,” said Mills.
ARC members asked Mills about changing the venue for the January 31st ARC meeting at North Dundas to Seaway.
The next ARC working committee meeting is tentatively scheduled for January 24th at Seaway, pending confirmation from the UCDSB.