| Feb 19, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - February 19, 2009 PARC Comes to ParhamBy Julie Druker

Board treasurer Roger Richard and board trustee Barb McClaren

“This is not just a smokescreen. We are not going to sit here for the next year for a foregone conclusion.”

So said Ann Goodfellow in response to some pointed questions from parents at the first public meeting of the Limestone District School Board's Program and Accomodation Review Committee (PARC) for Sharbot Lake High School and its four feeder schools (Hinchinbrooke – Parham. Land O'Lakes – Mountain Grove, Clarendon Central – Plevna, and Sharbot Lake Public School)

The PARC is a 25 member committee, including staff and parent council members from each school, representatives from North and Central Frontenac Council, school board trustees, and school board staff. They will meet up to 10 times over the next 3 months before making recommendations to the board.

There are 8 criteria for the kind of review that has been undertaken, and in the case of what the Board calls the “Sharbot Lake Family of Schools” five of those criteria are present.

They include: 1. the schools are unable to provide a “suitable and equitable range of learning opportunities to students.” 2. Enrolment is expected to decline which will have an “adverse impact on learning opportunities”, 3. Reorganizing the schools “could enhance program and learning opportunities for the students,” 4. the learning space is “not suitable to provide the programs needed to serve the community and retrofitting may be cost prohibitive, and 5. Under normal circumstances it is necessary to assign “multiple (more than two) grades to one class in one or more of the schools”.

A consultants report, prepared for the Board by Watson and Associates two years ago, called for the closing of all the schools in the area, and the building of one comprehensive school (for Junior Kindergarten to grade 12 students) at the site of the current Sharbot Lake High School.

School Board Trustee Barb Mclaren, who represents the District of South Frontenac and is Chair of the PARC, downplayed the importance of the Watson report.

“The Watson report is just a set of recommendations. They are one idea. What will come out after the next ten meetings of the PARC will be something that has real local input,” she said.

In spite of these assurances, audience members expressed serious concerns that the PARC will be dominated by demographic and financial information, and will be missing the human factor.

Karen Hermer, one of a large contingent from Plevna who attended the meeting, asked “has the board considered how to put a value on the impact on the local community if there are school closures.”

Roger Richard, the school board treasurer and a resource person to the PARC responded, “The board does not pre-judge that. The question of value to the community will be the subject of a full discussion by the accommodation review committee. I would not want to pre-judge that discussion.”

One parent from Hinchinbrooke made her position quite clear.

“As a parent from Hinchinbrooke my recommendation to the board is to leave our schools alone.”

The board is not expected to make any decisions on the accommodation review for at least a year, and the implementation of those decisions could take one to two years.

The Sharbot Lake PARC has been meeting at each of the subject schools and considering the deficiencies and strengths of each building.

Their next public meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, March 3rd at Clarendon Central in Plevna – 7:00 pm.

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