The Friends of Hensall Public School proposes that South Huron District High School in Exeter be made over into a Kindergarten-to-Grade 12 facility to house students currently going to Exeter Public School.The willingness to consider a different school structure is an important one. Recently, the board serving the Pembroke area took the same step in a school consolidation. It's not uncommon to see these school structures in Northern Ontario (north of, say Sault Ste. Marie - North Bay - Timmins) and in rural and remote areas in other provinces. It's happening in southern Ontario as well-- Woodstock / Oxford County is about to get a K-12 French Catholic school. I'm sure, given how this review is already questioning its leadership its members will give a thorough vetting to the concept and consider it not just as a means of shifting the spotlight from Hensall.
Group Co-Chair Joan Bradley says it makes more fiscal sense for the Board to close Exeter Public than either of the elementary schools in Hensall or Zurich.
Bradley says Exeter Public School is almost 70 years old and has what she calls a patchwork of additions that have been built onto the facility since it opened in 1942.
She says the elementary schools in Hensall and Zurich -- which are in relatively good shape -- should remain open instead of the one in Exeter that would cost 750 thousand dollars to upgrade.
Bradley says there will be 413 empty student spaces at SDHS next year and there will be 313 students enrolled at Exeter Public.
School structure, I've learned over the last decade, is such a personal and group preference based mostly on tradition and how schools were organized when the parents in question were in school. You had a Grade 8 graduation with the corsets and flowers and dance with the 13-year-old valedictorian, you want your kids to experience those milestones as well. It's easy to understand.
It provides some space to look at one of the more common school organizational changes happening in Ontario in recent years, the move to 7-12 schools. Such a conversation and decision is underway in North Bay. Those with memory of some of earliest posts would remember I'm a supporter of the 7-12 model, with the heavy and fulsome full disclosure that I'm a graduate of a 7-OAC school.
While it can be easier to find efficiencies and avoid the headache of having a hundred different school structures, I strongly believe the accommodation review process is an ideal setting for a community to have its say on whether and how it wants to consider alternate school organization for its children. If it makes sense to the largest amount of impacted students, that committee needs to give it serious consideration and then advocate for it among trustees.