News Local

No decision on school

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Another meeting and still no decision.

Students and parents of area high schools attending a Simcoe County District Board of Education meeting last night once again went home without an answer about the fate of their schools after the four-and-a-half hour session adjourned at 11 p. m.

On the line is the future of Elmvale District High School, Stayner Collegiate, Penetanguishene Secondary, Midland Secondary and Collingwood Collegiate.

Earlier this year, an accommodation review committee -- known as ARC 'B' -- was struck to make a recommendation to the school board about how to handle the future of the school.

The ARC recommended a five-school option, which would keep all five high schools open.

"The recommendations were (also) to reduce the extra capacity at MSS by right-sizing the building and renovating for programming, or by leasing out the space so that the board is not paying for unoccupied space, or requiring funding from the Ministry of Education for a school that is under 80 per cent capacity," said Lynn Brennan, a parent representative on the ARC 'B' committee.

The recommendations would also include upgrades to Elmvale District High School and Stayner Collegiate to address programming needs and the overcapacity issues at EDHS, which has 11 portables.

"Not a replacement school for EDHS, but an upgrade or retrofit," Brennan said.

But a report from board staff delivered after the presentation of the ARC recommendations suggested three schools would be enough: Collingwood Collegiate, Midland Secondary, and a new school serving Wasaga Beach and Elmvale.

That would mean the closing of high schools in Stayner, Penetanguishene, and the existing one in Elmvale.

Debate amongst trustees was heated at times.

Trustee Brad Saunders said last night reports from other accommodation review committees have been accepted in the past.

"Why wouldn't we show the same respect to members of ARC 'B'. I would encourage trustees to stand up for smaller schools in Simcoe County," he said.

"The board should be active and petition the Ministry of Education to support smaller high schools in our area, " Saunders added.

Trustees noted that excess capacity at the schools is at the heart of the debate and that funding from the ministry is based on enrollment. Student numbers are dropping across the county, although EDHS is at 160 per cent capacity.

Trustee Donna Armstrong suggested a rate increase would be in the works if the ARC 'B' recommendations were adopted.

"If we follow them, we can't maintain all these schools," she said.

By 11 p. m., trustees determined they couldn't make a decision and the meeting was adjourned.

Another special meeting will be scheduled, according to board spokesperson Debbie Clarke, adding the date and time has yet to be decided.

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