Monday, April 20, 2009

Huron ARC

This came from an e-mail that crossed the desk today-- over a report received by Avon Maitland District School Board trustees April 14 regarding an accommodation review in "Central East North" Huron County. This is the staff response to the ARC report, tabled with trustees March 31. The committee wants, in a particularly interesting set of recommendations, the board to close four community schools and build a school suited for approximately 650 full-time students. This is bold-- I don't think such a set of recommendations from a community / communities / parents has ever crossed this desk in over six years of reporting on education (nor the four years of study that preceded it). Some of those supporting the committee's recommendations have setup their own blog, where they lay out the meat of their point of view and rally others to the cause. The committee wants educational excellence for children in this area, recognizing the aging, smaller buildings their children currently attend will present growing challenges as the years pass. It's a novel set of recommendations for the committee to present, given the increased busing and larger school size it accepts. Most communities view these as a threat to their very existence as small-school people.
The staff response, however, opts for a three-school closure, along with sending a whack of Grade 7/8 students to F.E. Madill Secondary School (Wingham). Staff cite some operational (transportation) and programming reasons for selecting this option as the preferred option.
Let's all remember folks-- it's trustees who ultimately make the decision here. They've been presented with what appear to be two solid set of recommendations, which includes a set of recommendations from the community extending far beyond the status quo. At the end of the day however, it's up to those men and women to make the decision based on recommendations they receive.
I will comment, for a moment, on the community's outright disdain and opposition to having Grade 7/8 students attend class in a high school setting. (Full disclosure: This reporter attended JK-6 and 7-12 schools) School organization is one of the trigger-point issues in education, and it's universal. Parents want their children to be educated in schools that are setup like the ones they attended-- K-8, 9-12, or whatever system they're familiar with. They are extremely reluctant, in most cases, to consider alternate methods of arranging their schools. Any model you can imagine of splitting students into different buildings by grade exists out there-- if not in Ontario then in this country. All of them have the potential of offering a high-quality education. 7-12 high schools are not going to create monsters or open these youth to undue predation from more senior students (at least not any more than they are already at risk). It provides these children with excellent access to high school-level specialized teaching areas for science, music, visual arts, drama and physical education. Many of the same opportunities for leadership students in K-8 schools have still exist in a 7-12, in a different form. It also allows the Grade 6s who remain to now be in that position of leadership, which often many students are ready to accept.


Lisa Bieman said...

The problem with the 7-12 idea is that this was precisely what ARC was dead set against, from the beginning. Parents and ARC were urged by the board and trustees to go beyond, and what arose was the viable idea for NMECE. They (the board, trustees)knew from day one we were against sending our 7 &8's to the high school setting. We are RURAL. This means that we have crappy weather, it's highway driving, gravel road driving, in the snowbelt. It is not like city driving. Roads become closed, kids get stuck, this would be a reality. There are also spinoffs, economical, real estate, you name it, for small towns, this is akin to death, losing a school. People who move to small towns and villages, and are drawn to a small school setting.

There are obviously good reasons to send children to high school, but there are also wrong reasons to send children to high school. In my opinion this is not being done for the betterment of the children, but to fill spaces in the high school in Wingham. They will not be getting a better education. It will be easier for them to fall through the cracks.

Rural schools are different in kind to those of cities and such, from experience, not from statistics. There are commonalities, but there are definite characteristics that define rural from urban.

The idea of a middle school, that would be more apropos in this area.