News Local

Review of high schools OK'd

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Barrie Central Collegiate supporters got something to cheer about Monday night, as well as some not-so good news.

Simcoe County District School Board trustees last night approved a motion by trustee Mary Anne Wilson that would see administration "actively pursue potential partnerships to enhance a business case to rebuild or refurbish Barrie Central" on more or less the same site. That report will be presented to trustees by June 2010.

The motion was welcomed with applause by students and parents attending last night's meeting.

The not-so-good news was the accommodation review committee (ARC) that so many students, parents and Central supporters have feared will be struck for all five public high schools in the city: Barrie Central, Barrie North, Bear Creek, Eastview and Innisdale.

ARCs, which are made up of individuals representing various facets of the schools and communities involved, make recommendations to the board.

Trustees have reminded Barrie Central supporters that striking the ARC doesn't necessarily mean the school will close, although they have acknowledged it is possible a new high school could be proposed for the city's south-end where the population is booming

But that hasn't changed Janet Kinsey's idea of what the review committee's end result might be.

Her son, Ben Kinsey, is a Grade 12 student at Central and has been active with other students in ensuring the downtown high school doesn't close.

"If an ARC is struck, it's pretty difficult to sell a business partnership plan if your side of the partnership is potentially slated for closure," she said, after trustees made their decision.

Ben was happy Wilson's motion passed.

"They listened to what we said. They're at least trying to attempt partnerships," he said, adding he wasn't surprised the motion to strike the ARC passed, with only Wilson opposing it.

Kinsey and other students aren't giving up, however.

"We are definitely open to doing more and are willing to keep going. We're not going to just go away," he said. "When the ARC comes to pass, we'll definitely be looking into things to do and becoming involved with the process."

The school board's number one priority in its 2008 budget was rebuilding the high school but funding from the Ministry of Education was not forthcoming.

"They let us down," Wilson said. "Last year, it was our vision to seek funding to rebuild Barrie Central. The ministry said, 'You need to look at your problem differently'. They are telling us where it is acceptable to build a new school."

When the first application to rebuild Barrie Central was made, there were partnerships that weren't investigated, she added.

She is fearful the newly struck ARC will not address potential partnerships quickly enough.

"At what stage of the ARC will it start talking about partnerships?" she asked, adding that with the ARC process, it could be eight or nine months before partnerships are explored. "We owe it to the community to open up discussions now."

A report about partnerships would aid the ARC, she added.

"We would hope the ARC process would bring potential partnerships to the table," superintendent Carol McAulay said.

"The ARC process gives a voice to the community and perspective to the board," added Donna Armstrong.

Steve Stein, a former Central student who now has children attending the school, is passionate about keeping the school viable and where it is.

"It's ridiculous that my family would have to go to the south end of Barrie to go to school," he said, adding perhaps it's time to consider another option.

"I think, to be truly represented, Barrie needs its own school board. We're not going to get a fair shake from the county school board," he said.

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