Trustees approved the closure and consolidation of five schools in northern Huron County and the construction of a new 'super school' to house all JK-6 students from four of the schools and some of the students from the fifth school.
Huron East/Central Huron trustee Shelley Kaastra, who also once fought to save a rural school, was in tears as she expressed her support for the recommendation. But (Stratford trustee Meg) Westley was clearly the most vocal supporter.The conclusion of this particular accommodation review provides an opportunity to highlight how constructive it has been to the process and how a community can respond and achieve some of its desires. It was the community that recommended one single school to house all students through the accommodation review process, an idea board staffers latched on to as they revised their recommendations through the last year.
"There has also been the suggestion that we haven’t listened. I would like to suggest that we certainly have,” the board’s past-chairman continued. “We do appreciate your concerns. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we do what you want us to do . . . but I have seen the staff recommendation change and morph as a result of the input from the community.”
The community (its blog is a fascinating read) wanted the school to be a JK-8, not JK-6, due to its concerns and opposition to turning F.E. Madill in Wingham into a 7-12 high school.
“All they’ve done now is increase the animosity between the community and board,” (Mark Beaven, a community member who served on the board-mandated public-consultation committee) said to reporters, outside the building.Let's not lose the point here however-- a community rejected a status-quo or consensus 'keep everything open' recommendation during its accommodation review and pitched and supported an idea that had enough merit to garner board support and funding from the Ministry of Education. This storyline should be mandatory reading for all trustees and accommodation review committee members.
In his delegation to the board, Beaven called on trustees to defer the decision until September 2009, in order to gather further information about funding possibilities for a Kindergarten-to-Grade 8 school. This is the option being promoted by what’s known as the “Hot Stove Group,” consisting largely of community-based members of the now-disbanded public consultation committee.
Trustees, however, remain wary of administrative staff’s advice that the promised $8.8 million in Local Priorities funding from the provincial Education Ministry also comes with strings attached: that any new construction must provide a solution for excess space - only projected to increase - at F.E. Madill.