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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Owen Sound Plan Criticized

Chesley | by Matt Villeneuve  

Many people spoke in favour of keeping OSCVI a high school.

The Bluewater School Board's plan to close four Owen Sound area schools, merge two high schools and re-brand OSCVI as an elementary facility has met with heavy criticism.

Nearly twenty delegations of parents, students and concerned citizens on Wednesday offered options and insights to Trustees with the BWDSB, and few supported the current accommodation review recommendations from the Board.

As you may know, a Bluewater staff report recommends Bayview, Dufferin, Sydenham and Derby Public School close by the end of the 2017-18 school year.

It's proposed that the Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute be renovated and become a kindergarten-to-Grade-8 facility with French Immersion.

High school students from OSCVI would then go to West Hill Secondary School.

James Sebesta is a retired teacher -- and he tells Bayshore Broadcasting News the OSCVI's distinguished history won't survive a merger with West Hill.

He also says West Hill Secondary is aging and in dire need of repairs or renovations, while the current OSCVI location is just sixteen-years old.

Diane Ferguson is an accountant with a daughter planning to attend OSCVI -- and she says amalgamating high schoolers at West Hill isn't logical.

She says OSCVI offers a preferable facility with more space, a beautiful auditorium, specialized classrooms and a greenhouse, among other perks.

Teacher, Emily Cameron, says the Bluewater Board's original suggestion for West Hill and OSCVI to both become Grade-7-to-12 schools was the most "responsible" option.

She says that would've allowed OSCVI to operate at 80 per cent capacity, while West Hill would function at 79 per cent capacity.

There were also a handful of people who made presentations in favour of the recommendation to close Derby, Dufferin, Bayview and Sydenham schools while moving OSCVI students to West Hill.

Graham Sanders is a Grade-13 student at West Hill -- and he says whatever option is selected, students should embrace the change and develop a new school culture.

As for Derby Public School in Kilsyth -- Lorelei Spencer, a urban and regional planner, says if the facility is closed, the Bluewater Board will lose a rural gem.

Spencer had harsh criticism for Trustees, suggesting they'd squandered past opportunities that would've allowed for the construction of a new rural school.

She says the Board failed to develop a long-term strategy to protect its rural schools.

And Spencer says the BWDSB's poor planning and lack of foresight will impact its other rural facilities in Hepworth, Arran Tara and Holland Central.

Many delegations noted that while the Bluewater District School Board's enrolment continues to decline, the Bruce-Grey Catholic Board is preparing for expansion.

It was suggested the decline in the student population is due to the Board's mismanagement and the uncertainty surrounding so many of its school.

Regardless of the differing opinions, each delegation on Wednesday was respectful and courteous to Trustees -- and each respected the ten-minute time limit.

The comments will be compiled into a report and reviewed by the Board on April 12th.

A final decision is expected at the Board's April 19th meeting, which will begin at 7 PM at the Bluewater Education Centre in Chesley.




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