| Nov 13, 2008

Nov 13/08 - LDSB Program Review

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Feature Article - November 13, 2008 LDSB Program Review for Northern SchoolsBy Jeff Green

One way or another, change is likely for the northern schools of the Limestone Board.

A group of people will start meeting tonight, November 13, 6:30 pm at Sharbot Lake High School, and will continue to meet for up to a year before submitting recommendations to the Limestone District School Board.

The program and accommodation review (PARC) process was initiated last February in response to two major factors: projected decreases in enrolment in most or all of the schools, and the fact that all but one of them has been designated by the province as “prohibitive to repair”.

Hinchinbrooke (Parham), Clarendon Central (Plevna) as well as Sharbot Lake Elementary and Secondary Schools have all received this designation, with Land o' Lakes Public School (Mountain Grove) being the sole exception.

A “prohibitive to repair” designation means that the province considers it would cost over 2/3 of the price of a new school to renovate the existing one and bring it up to current standards.

“I like to compare ‘prohibitive to repair' to the situation faced by a car owner who owns a $10,000 car. You would choose to do basic maintenance like changing the oil and tires, but if you needed to spend $6,500 for a new engine, you would replace the car,” said Wayne Toms, the Information Technology Manager for the Board.

The second major factor in the decision to establish an accommodation review for the north is declining enrolment.

While Toms said “declining enrolment is a province-wide issue facing over 60 of the 72 boards in Ontario,” the numbers projected in North and Central Frontenac make it unlikely that the province will want to build brand-new schools in Parham, Sharbot Lake and Plevna.

Board projections envision a stable enrolment of 45-50 at Clarendon Central between now and 2021, well below the school’s capacity of 92. At Hinchinbrooke, the projection for enrolment decreases to 95 by 2021, below the school’s 158 student capacity. Land o' Lakes is projected to see decreases in enrolment for the next few years before stabilizing at about 125, in a building that is capable of servicing 202 students.

In Sharbot Lake, the elementary school is projected to see declines to 65 in a building that can hold 135; intermediate school enrolment (housed at Sharbot Lake High School) is projected to level off at 23 by 2021, and at Sharbot Lake High School the enrolment is also projected to settle at a number that is much lower than the building’s capacity.

The PARC for the Sharbot Lake family of schools will be carried out by a large committee. Each school will be represented by the principal, a member of the teaching staff, a member of the non-teaching staff, and three members named by the parent council. As well, the trustee for the area, Ann Goodfellow, will attend, and Barb McLaren, the trustee for South Frontenac, will chair the review. Superintendent Pat Warren-Chaplin will represent the school board management at the start of the process, and she will be replaced when she retires in January by Superintendent Barb Frazer-Stiff. Wayne Toms will provide information to the process, and Kerry Stewart has been hired by the board to facilitate the entire process.

“The PARC is open-ended,” Wayne Toms said, “they are free to say ‘we are happy with the way things are going, thank you very much’”.

However, the board will not be bound by the PARC's recommendations.

Two accommodation reviews have been ongoing in the Limestone Board since January, one in East Kingston and one in Napanee. Each of them dealt with three schools. They are projected to be completed by February 1. In each case, the preliminary recommendations of the PARCs, which will be considered at public meetings this month, are for the closing of the three schools and the construction of a new school to serve all the students.

But Wayne Toms says the situation could be very different in the north.

“In each of the other cases, the province has committed money to build the new schools. This happened while the PARC was underway, but there has been no commitment by the province to fund any new schools in the north.”

Last February, at the meeting where the northern PARC was approved, Brenda Hunter, the Director of Education, is quoted in the minutes as saying, “with all of the schools in this area, except Land o’ Lakes Public School, qualifying as Prohibitive to Repair (PTR), there is significant potential for provincial funding to address this area through new construction.”

An accommodation report, the Watson report, was prepared for the Limestone Board in 2006. It called for the closing of all the schools in the Sharbot Lake family and the building of one comprehensive school (kindergarten to grade 12) in Sharbot Lake on the high school property.

“The Watson report will not be a factor for the PARC” said Toms. “The board received that report but has not implemented all of its recommendations. The northern PARC has a clean slate.”

After its initial meeting tonight (6:30 at Sharbot Lake High School) the PARC will meet 10 or more times in the coming months and will hold at least 4 other meetings to address the public directly.

All PARC meetings are open to the public to observe, and their times and locations will be posted at Limestone.on.ca under “Upcoming meetings”.

A final report is expected by October of next year.

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