Friday, July 31, 2015

Trustees urged to delay school closure decision

Northwest Catholic District School Board administration last night recommended that trustees postpone indefinitely a decision on the future of Our Lady of the Way School in Stratton.
Anthony Leek, who chairs the school’s Accommodation Review Committee, sees this as a positive step.

“It’s a better option than closing it,” he noted yesterday.
“If they basically don’t make a decision and keep things the way they are, it’s essentially saying it will stay open until they make a decision.
“That gives them time to improve based on the recommendations that the Accommodation Review Committee has provided to the board,” Leek said.
“It shows they are going to make an attempt at improving the situation versus saying they are going to close it down,” he added.
“It shows some real sincerity on their part.”
The school, which runs up to Grade 8, saw enrolment drop to 13 students last year.
It has been in the process of an accommodation review since January, 2013.
And while the Accommodation Review Committee recommended last month that the school remain open, an analysis by administration suggests it’s “too early to make a decision to close Our Lady of the Way School.”
“The enrolment decline that occurred was rapid and steps can be taken to address the enrolment decline,” noted the report, which was presented at last night’s regular board meeting.
“Additional time is required to determine the potential for long-term enrolment growth, as any enrolment growth will be slow as it will come from the kindergarten entry level and happen one year at a time,” it added.
Administration also is recommending the board direct it to provide update reports relative to enrolment at the school three times each year; and that the board instruct administration to present an updated Administration Reassessment Report of the Accommodation Report in February, 2017.
It also is suggesting the board ask administration to consider implementing the following accommodation review recommendations:
•that the Northwest Catholic District School Board commits to a minimum of two classrooms at Our Lady of the Way School;
•that a school action plan to be developed for implementation in 2013-14 to support a strong parish, community, and school relationship that focuses on strengthening the relationship with existing families while attracting new students and families; and
•that the board commit to review the accommodation review process to identify the strengths and concerns of the existing one.
Those three recommendations are operational and will be the decision of administration.
“It is of the opinion that there is potential to maintain a school that meets the needs of student and families, and that is cost-efficient,” the report said.
“Making a decision to close the school now is premature,” it stressed.
“More time is needed to determine the potential for long-term enrolment growth.”
The report also indicated the school, which covers the jurisdiction from Emo to Rainy River to Nestor Falls, is the only Catholic school west of Fort Frances in the area served by the board.
“The lengthy travel time to the neighbouring Catholic schools will make continued attendance in Catholic schools difficult for some of the families served by the board,” it stated.
And while the school currently is operating in one classroom, administration is exploring staffing scenarios that adjust levels to add a second classroom, at the same time identifying savings in other staffing costs.
The report shows there is a potential reduction in the net cost to $92,000.
It’s expected trustees will vote on the future of Our Lady of the Way at their next regular meeting March 18.

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