Few attend school closure meeting

Only four parents showed up for the school closure meeting at Sixth Street School on Wednesday night, but they came armed with questions about why their school is on the chopping block.
“All three of the schools that have been identified for closure . . . needed a lot of dollars to be put in over the next few years to bring them to a standard that we feel is acceptable for the kids in our district,” Terry Ellwood, superintendent of education with the Rainy River District School Board, told parents who turned out at the first of three school closure meetings.
A similar public meeting is scheduled Thursday at 7:30 at Alexander MacKenzie School, with a third is slated Feb. 26 at Alberton Central.
Ellwood, accompanied by board administration and four trustees at Wednesday night’s meeting, said Sixth Street School needs $680,000 worth of repairs to stay open.
One parent asked why the school board couldn’t build a new school on the Sixth Street location as opposed to expanding J.W. Walker on Keating Avenue.
“Sixth Street School council put forward the motion that a new building should be here because of the same reasons you stated—nice big priority, close to day care, skating rink,” Ellwood said.
“Remember, there are three other school councils involved in the consolidation. None of those school councils wanted to move from the west end,” he added.
Trustee Frank Sheppard said there was another reason building a new school at the corner of Sixth Street and Portage Avenue was out of the question.
“Getting rid of the other schools and building a brand new school on this site was discussed. Unfortunately, the economics won’t allow us to do that,” he noted, adding renovating or making an addition on J.W. Walker is far cheaper than building a new facility from scratch.
When asked when the school closures would occur, Ellwood said the renovation process is expected to be completed by September, 2003.
In the meantime, he said the board has come up with a number of options for housing students of the four affected schools during the proposed expansion at Walker.
“Some of the scenarios mean that nobody moves, which means that the kids stay in the building and you plan the renovations around the kids,” Ellwood said.
“I’m not so sure that’s the one we’re going to end up with but that’s one of the scenarios.”
In the past, the board has discussed moving students from Walker to Robert Moore for the year, operating as a “school within a school.”
The board also was asked what would happen to teachers at Sixth Street School under the consolidation. “We would look at having the most appropriate staff in every school,” Ellwood responded.
Sheppard said that he didn’t like the idea of closing schools any more than parents.
“I don’t think the majority of the board wishes to do this,” he said. “Right now, we’re in a position where we’re either going to have to make some decision or all the schools are going to be in a position where they’re going to have a problem.”
Colleen and Denis Barnard came to the meeting to find out what might happen to their son, who currently is in grade two at Sixth Street School.
She said she found the meeting informative, but is still concerned about her son going to a bigger school.
“They’re going to be going to an environment with more kids,” she said. “I want to know if they will get the same kind of one-on-one.”
Barnard said she figured at this point the school closure was inevitable. That sentiment was echoed by Merial Stromberg, another parent who attended Wednesday night’s meeting.
“I wish they didn’t have to close it but if that’s come to it, I can’t stop it,” she said. “Nobody can’t stop it.”