Catholic high school lacks interest

Cameron Penney

A survey to determine interest in a Catholic high school in Fort Frances found the interest “is significantly below the level needed for a viable secondary school program.”
That was among the information in a report by consultant Gerry Thuss of Stratford, Ont., which was presented at the Northwest Catholic District School Board’s regular monthly meeting last night.
“We feel really comfortable with the information that was presented,” said Director of Education Rick Boisvert.
“We not only sent information brochures and pamphlets out to the community, but we also hosted a meeting for parents and for the community to attend,” he noted.
“The community was well-informed when they made the decisions.”
The survey, conducted from April 21-May 8, saw 70 respondents in total, with 51 families indicating they would support a Catholic high school here.
Thuss noted in his report that students enrolled in Grades 3-7 had a low interest level while the interest level from full-day kindergarten to Grade 2 was “only slightly better.”
The projected enrolment indicated only four Grade 9 students would enrol in the 2017-18 school year.
And by 2021, when the school would have students ranging from Grades 9-12, there only would be a projected 25 students in total.
“Given the low number of interested students, the overall size of the school would be extremely small and would provide a significant challenge to operate effectively and efficiently,” Thuss warned in his report.
It ultimately concluded that “[b]ased on the survey results, the interest identified to establish a Catholic secondary school in Fort Frances is significantly below the level needed for a viable secondary school program.”
The board then passed a recommendation last night that “no further action be taken to investigate the feasibility of a secondary school in the Town of Fort Frances.”
For current and future high school students interested in furthering their Catholic education, there remains opportunities here moving forward.
“The board does offer a high school credit—a Catholic secondary school credit,” Boisvert noted.
“The information is provided on the board’s website and if anyone is interested, they can certainly contact us here and we will make sure they get that information,” he added.
Also last night, the board heard a presentation from Ashley Morrison of St. Francis School on the Students Working to Advance Technology (SWAT) club that had been a pilot project there this year.
“We had quite a large response when we sent permission forms home,” Morrison said.
“We had, I think, close to 90 students signed up initially,” she noted, adding they broke it down into two smaller groups.
The nine-week program saw students work with and learn using technology during after-school hours.
Students used technologies such as “Makey Makey,” a product that allows regular household objects to be programmed to be used as a keyboard and mouse.
A video demonstrated students connecting gummy worms to a computer, then using the worms as if they were keys on a piano.
Students also tried out a “brain controller helicopter,” which they piloted using an electroencephalogram (EEG) headset.
The headset measures brainwaves and students must concentrate to be able to make the helicopter fly.
On a tablet, students can monitor their concentration by looking at visuals on the screen.
“It’s very inquiry-based—so what they want to do and where their interests take them,” Morrison enthused.
Other items on last night’s agenda included:
•the feasibility of a Catholic secondary school in Dryden;
•an update on the success of “Wellness Day” held April 25; and
•a recognition of excellence for the dedication and commitment of staff and volunteers for coaching various sports activities throughout the school year.