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Six north-Barrie Catholic elementary schools under the microscope

By Ian McInroy, Barrie Examiner

Members of a pupil accommodation review of six north-Barrie Catholic elementary schools got an earful from parents during a public meeting Monday night.

Parents of students attending one of the schools, Monsignor Clair Catholic School - such as Bernard Firanski - were especially suspicious of the review process.

Monday night's meeting was the third of four being held by the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board's accommodation review for Monsignor Clair, St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic School, St. Mary's Catholic School, Sister Catherine Donnelly Catholic School, St. Monica's Catholic School and The Good Shepherd Catholic School.

The review is used by board officials to evaluate and review how schools accommodate students and to determine facility needs.

The 100 or so parents in attendance heard about declining enrolment numbers - and thus less Ministry of Education funding - and changing demographics for the six schools which have made the review necessary.

The October 2011 enrolment for the six schools is about 1,850 students while the (on-the-ground) capacity for them is about 2,400, meaning there is a surplus of 23 classrooms.

Parents heard the draft options currently being considered by board staff and the pupil accommodation committee: A, the status quo; B, closing one school and redistributing the students to the five other schools; C, pursue partnerships to utilize the surplus space and mitigate operating costs; D, utilize space for board office staff services either within individual surplus classrooms or within an amalgamated school; or E (the most recent option discussed), revisit the north Barrie pupil accommodation review once complete 2011 census data is available in the fall of 2012.

The accommodation committee presented their two preferred options, but everyone was reminded they are only draft recommendations and no decision has been made.

The committee has, so far, recommended option B as well as option D.

Board staff's preliminary preferred option is also option B, with a suggestion that St. Monica's and The Good Shepherd school not be considered for closure, meaning if staff's recommendation is accepted by trustees and the board, one of the four remaining schools would be closed and the students moved elsewhere.

But Firanski, and many others in the crowd, didn't like that option - or the way the conclusions were reached - and told the accommodation review committee as much.

"We're gathered here facing the miserable possibility of losing our school, whichever school that may be," he told the committee during the question and answer period.

"Many of us here are filled with a sense of impotent frustration, convinced that the board's decision has already been made," Firanski said. "We feel that nothing we say will make a difference here."

The next - and final - public meeting of the North Barrie Pupil Accommodation Review will take place at St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic School, 240 Kozlov St., on Feb. 16 beginning at 7 p.m.

For more information on how to forward questions and comments about the accommodation review, visit www.smcdsb.on.ca.



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